For this twenty-second Flaunt My Friend Friday, I'd like you to meet Lindsey. She's a busy gal... a soon to be mom of three and was integral in helping start up a museum! Not sure many people can say that... "oh, when I was starting up a museum the other day..." Please read what she is sharing with us about her venture (or as she calls it, her labor of love) and hard work. If you're anywhere near upstate New York, I hope you check it out in person! Lucky for me, she has family near the area we just moved to last year... so I've been able to meet up with her and her busy fun family before!
Hello! I am Lindsey and I am the Director of the ImaginariumChildren’s Museum. But, that’s only part of who I am. First, I am a wife to Alex and I am a mother to two pretty cool boys, Max who is 5 and Owen who is 3. Baby J #3 will make his/her appearance in December….Just in time for Christmas!
When Tyson first announced her “Flaunt My Friend Friday” blog posts, I thought… “I’d love to participate, but I have NO idea what I would blog about.” I really am not crafty nor do I have any regular hobbies I participate in… I’m quite boring. THEN, Tyson proposed that I talk about the Imaginarium – my other baby!
The Imaginarium Children’s Museum is a project that I joined in December 2011. The museum was in its infancy and I knew this was a project I couldn’t pass on. I wasn’t sure what I could offer, but I knew that our community needed a children’s museum in a bad way. When I started volunteering, things were just getting started and fundraising efforts were in full force. The founders had already been busy at work getting the museum recognized by the New York State Board of Regents and the Association of Children’s Museums. In November of 2011, the Imaginarium was officially granted a Provisional Charter, which is good for five years, by the NY Board of Regents as an educational corporation. As an educational corporation we promise to operate as a hands-on interactive museum devoted to educating children of all ages in topics ranging from science to math to history to business. Thus far, I think we’ve met and exceeded those goals!
In January 2012 we began sparking the community’s interest by being involved in any and every community activity we could. They were hooked and everyone knew that this project was desired, loved and already a huge hit!
Things began to move extremely fast and we were lucky enough to be given a space to use as our temporary location in February 2012. The building, where we are still housed, is a little more than 7,000 square feet in a fairly popular part of town. In March 2012 we moved in, put some color on the walls and began brainstorming how we would fill the space with exhibits and mind blowing fun. Since funds were limited, we went to the wonderful world of Pinterest to see how we could be creative and inexpensive and we stumbled upon a milk carton igloo. Why not, right? But, our igloo couldn’t be simple; it had to be large in scale. We used almost 1,000 milk jugs to create our first colossal exhibit and boy, we were proud!
After the milk jug igloo “melted” we needed to keep wowing our visitors. Each month we held an education program with a special theme. Some of the programs held at the museum were focused on spring, different countries around the world, and story book characters. As the museum evolved and grew, our next step was to go from an emerging children’s museum to an established children’s museum. To make this transition, the Association of Children’s Museums requires certain steps and criteria to be met. We knew we were ready and the plan was made and our deadline was October 2012.
Before October, our work was cut out. We needed to make a plan. Our plan was to close the museum for 6 weeks and build some permanent exhibits. We were granted funds by our local Kiwanis Club, we had volunteers all ready and the plans were drawn. Phase 1 of our exhibits commenced. By October, the museum was completely transformed with the latest and greatest from the Imaginarium. At our Grand Opening we unveiled five new exhibits; a Farmer’s Market, a Dentist’s Office, a Construction Zone, A Glow Room, and a toddler corner. But, having REAL exhibits and a Grand opening weren’t the only stipulations to becoming an established museum. We also had to have regular hours…. And starting in October 2012, we did just that. The museum was established and booming! Our visitors reached almost 2,000 by December and our volunteer staff was so proud!
Most recently, we’ve added a science lab, a doctor’s office, a dress up corner, a nature center and several other small kiosk exhibits throughout the museum. The Imaginarium is projecting 10,000 visitors this year and hope to double that in 2014. Throughout June, our halls were filled with field trips from elementary schools and daycare facilities. We’re receiving the support from families, schools and even some local politicians have shown interest in helping us.
In December, the board of directors decided to make some staffing changes and hired ME as their first paid staff. My hard work and time had finally paid off. I had some transitions to make within my family life, but with a supportive husband and children (I mean, this is for children, mine included, right?) this job was something I couldn’t turn down. I started out as a part time “Member Services Director” and slowly became the Chief Operating officer and have most recently become the Director of the museum.
The Imaginarium has been a labor of love for me for almost two years now and with more and more hard work daily, I know things will continue to grow and be better each year. I was recently asked what my “Pie in the Sky” vision is for the museum and my mind floated to a beautiful building with expensive exhibits and lots of money flowing for purchasing at will, but I was quickly grounded and thought, Pie in the Sky, hmm… My ultimate Pie in the Sky vision for this, little Upstate NY museum is for it to be a community fixture, for it to be a safe and affordable place for families, for it to boast a friendly staff and clean environment and for all of our visitors to leave happy and with giant smiles on their faces.
Thank you Lindsey! Kudos to all of your time, energy, and efforts... it really has paid off! Best of luck to you and the museum. Can't wait to see it keep on growing and shining under your direction. Maybe someday we'll make it that far north to check it out ourselves, we loves places where kids can play and be learning at the same time! Best of both worlds. Be sure to check out Imaginarium on their site and on Facebook!