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By Frank Schier
By Frank Schier
Editor and Publisher
Its a wonderful day and announcement, said Mayor Doug Scott, putting it right during the press conference on Jan. 16 announcing that the Discovery Center Museum had attained a fourth place tie in the ranking of 200 childrens museums in the nation by Child magazine.
He went on to say we should have buttons printed up touting our ranking. The mayor noted that there might be a presumption that were bragging, but added in the vernacular, It aint braggin if you can back it up.
To many, that fact and sentiment is welcome change considering the other ranking of note that Rockford has received from
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Add on our latest good news from the National Association of Homebuilders that Rockford ranks first in the nation for affordable homes, considering income levels and real estate prices.
The price of homes and the Discovery Centers achievement tell the story that weve all known in Rockford for some timethis is a great town for families.
Adults enjoy the Discovery Center as much as the children, Scott said. This means a lot to usour civic pride.
Echoing Mayor Scott, District 205 School Superintendent Dr. Alan Brown, also a Discovery Center board member, praised fellow board members and Sarah Wolf, the executive director of the Discovery Center. He said the center is a great partner to our schools. He also cited the improved achievement scores and pointed out that 150,000 children over the last five years have visited the center, and another 60,000 have attended through outreach programs and after-school activities.
Wendy Perks Fisher, president of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, Ive been in Boston and Minneapolis, and we should be number one. I would certainly advertise that we are number four.
She noted the proximity of the Rockford Speedway and Magic Waters and that 70 percent of the attendees were visitors. That should make local citizens feel good, she said.
She also had great praise for the 20 years of work by Executive Director Wolf, and Melissa Teske, who was on the original Junior League committee that started the museum.
In her remarks, Wolf hit a note which has concerned many original donors and current supporters considering the Rockford Art Museums announcement that they might move to Rock Valley College. As to the Discovery Center, The futurewere stayingthis facility works wonderfully for us.
While stressing the achievement of the Discovery Center, Scott agreed to address the possible move for the Art Museum, My position is Id like them to stay. Im concerned about the move.
Theyve got a responsibility to do the best for their museum and patrons. Weve agreed to talk scenarios.
Climate control, space, the size of the facility, storage become issues. Its up to us to try to meet their needs. Were talking about an I-Max. The Armorys an issue.
Were trying to play out all the scenarios to something that works, Scott said.
The Riverfront Museum complex recently spent $1.8 million on the cooling and heating system to offer better controls.
That was a need for total comfort of all the organizations, not just the Art Museum, said Wolf.
Control of the humidity is the central issue for accreditation for the Art Museum. Reportedly, an estimated additional $1 to 2 million would be needed to upgrade the cooling and heating system to bring it up to accreditation standards.
Discovery Center provides
details adding up to the big win
The Discovery Centers fine work was included in the nations first-ever survey to identify the 10 best childrens museums, as conducted by Child magazine. Discovery Center was selected out of the more than 200 U.S. museums designed specifically for children. It was the only Illinois museum to rank in the top 10.
Discovery Center areas highlighted within the Child magazine article include:
l Features a planetarium where kids can pretend theyre astronauts
l Conducts live broadcasts on local CBS station from the Kids News Studio
l Offers a Tot Spot area with a 5-foot-wide, 4 1/2-foot-high custom-made dollhouse
l Allows kids to climb floors on spiral staircase featuring a giant mouse-hole maze
l Boasts 25% of employees have degree in early childhood education
We are very proud to be selected as one of the 10 best childrens museums in the nation, said Wolf, who has served at the Museums helm since 1985. Providing the opportunity for children to experience the joy of learning has always been our goal, and to have our museum rank fourth on the first-ever national listing of the top 10 childrens museums is very exciting for our Museum and our community.
Discovery Center Museum shares its fourth place ranking with Port Discovery of Baltimore. Rounding out the top five, respectively, are: The Indianapolis Childrens Museum; The Childrens Museum of Houston; and the Childrens Museum, Boston.
To identify the top 10 childrens museums, Child magazine worked with a panel of advisors to findand even definewhat sets top institutions apart. Child magazine sent a 44-question survey to more than 200 members of the Association of Childrens Museums (ACM). The questions addressed issues such as the quality of exhibits and programming and availability and experience of staff as well as comfort factors such as food service and diaper-changing stations.
A non-profit organization, Discovery Center has, over its 21-year history, established itself as a leader in the Rockford, regional and national education communities, as well as a key player in the Rockford and northern Illinois tourism markets. Through interactive exhibits and educational and family programming, Discovery Center continually strives to meet the goal, established within its mission statement, of providing an enriching environment where children of all ages discover the joy of learning. Additional information about Discovery Center Museum is available at www.discoverycentermuseum.org.
More Quick Facts
l According to the survey, Childs top 10 childrens museums areranked in order:
1. the Childrens Museum of Indianapolis
2. the Childrens Museum of Houston
3. the Childrens Museum, Boston
4. Discovery Center, Rockford, IL (Tie)
4. Port Discovery, Baltimore (Tie)
6. Brooklyn Childrens Museum
7. Strong Museum, Rochester, NY
8. Minnesota Childrens Museum, St. Paul
9. Childrens Discovery Museum of San Jose
10. Madison Childrens Museum, WI
l Number of museums surveyed nationally: 200-plus
l Child magazine monthly circulation: 3 million
l Discovery Center Museum opened in 1981; incorporated in 1984
l Museums average annual attendance: 125,000
l Discovery Center web & telephone: www.discoverycentermuseum.org (815) 963-6769
Discovery Center as compared to other top five museums
Square Annual Fulltime Metro Year
footage budget Staff Population Opened
Museum of 362,500 sq. ft. $18 million 186 1.5 million 1925
Museum of 44,000 sq. ft. $3.8 million 44 4.1 million 1984
Museum, 65,000 sq. ft. $7.9 million 75 3.2 million 1913*
Baltimore 80,000 sq. ft. $6.2 million 37 2.2 million 1998
Center 30,000 sq. ft. $700,000 8 250,000 1981
National Advisory Panel to
Child magazine on this project:
l Janet Rice Elman, Director, Association of Childrens Museums, Washington, D.C.
l Joann Norris, author of Childrens Museums: An American Guidebook
l Susan Delson, editor of Museums magazine, based in New York City
l Ismael Calderon, Ed.,D., Science Director, The Newark Museum Victoria Hall of Science in New Jersey
In the last five years alone,
Discovery Center Museum has:
l been visited by nearly 150,000 children on tours
l touched the lives of an additional 61,000 children through its outreach programs
l encouraged 13,000 children to explore science as they attended preschool, elementary school, middle school and home school classes
National education programs
Discovery Center is currently
collaborating on (with funding support from National Science Foundation):
l TEAMS, a five-museum consortium that developed traveling exhibitions and related education programs, all tailored to meet the needs of small museums. Discovery Centers contribution to the mix was the traveling exhibition Amusement Park Science, a permanent version of which is located on the Museums first floor.
l Midwest Wild Weather, an educational collaborative partnering of museums in four Midwestern states as they use hands-on exhibitions and interactive workshops to teach lessons in meteorology, filling the gaps budget cuts have left in many schools.
l TEAMS II, featuring seven museums working to further develop the goals established by the original TEAMS collaborative.
* The Childrens Museum, Boston, opened in 1913, is the worlds second-oldest childrens museum.
Upcoming events at Discovery Center:
Friday, Jan. 25 -
Harry Potters Hogwarts
Happening!: 6:30-8:30 p.m.:
Family event exploring magical world of Harry Potter… activities, experiments and games, door prizes, treats, live owl appearance, meet Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter… fun for whole family; admission fee of $5 public child, $3 member child (adults free) includes event and Museum.
Sunday, Jan. 27
Cabin Fever Jamboree: 1-4 p.m.:
Discovery Centers annual toe-tappin exploration of folk music returns… live musical and dance performances, childrens stage and activities… admission fee of $4 public, $3 museum members (museum admission separate).