Starting & Sustaining a Children's Museum: An Introduction
Prepared by Mary Maher
In 1997, ACM published Collective Vision: Starting and Sustaining a Children's Museum. This effort was supported in part by an award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The 300-plus page book, is a collection of advice from those who have created world-class children's museums. Four printings and 14 years later, ACM is proud to introduce The Collective Vision Toolkit. This online effort was supported in part by a generous, anonymous contributor who also happens to be a longtime friend of ACM and of children's museum start-ups. This online toolkit does not replace the evergreen wisdom in the Collective Vision (or its companion book Capturing the Vision). Individuals will find both print and online resources equally valuable.
The Collective Vision toolkit concentrates the steps in the start-up process and organizes it into a suggested order of operations.
The goals of the toolkit are:
- to help emerging children’s museums navigate the start-up process by identifying key stages and steps and the common issues associated with each one;
- to expand on well-known resources and introduce new ones;
- to provide instructive case studies; and
- to cite the typical problems of each stage and suggest solutions.
Each section is organized around the most common questions that arise while navigating a particular aspect of the start-up process. A section may not tell you everything you need to know on a particular topic, but it will steer you towards the questions you need to consider. All sections include a list of templates and standard documents as well as links to additional resources and other helpful organizations. Read it straight through or pick and choose topics of particular interest to you at various stages in your museum’s development. In any case, try to become familiar with more steps than the one on which you are currently perched; knowing the road ahead can be invaluable.
Children’s museums offer so much to communities: hands-on learning experiences, healthy play environments, social networks, family support organizations. And they’re fun! Kids love them, and the people who take them to museums love them, too. It’s not surprising that in the U.S. there are now more than 300 children’s museums open with another 70 in the start-up phase. And it’s not limited to this country. Worldwide, more than 400 children’s museums serve children and families on every continent. If you’re reading this, chances are you are about to become one of them. Welcome!