On Monday, I sat down with David Marskell, CEO of The Museum. Why and what I learned is an interesting story that I’ll share here since I was encouraged to “tell my friends.”
When the Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum made a push earlier this year to increase funding from local municipal governments, I watched with interest. With a lifetime interest in arts and culture, living in downtown Kitchener and now with a young family, I wanted to be supportive of the museum, but something was holding me back. I had seen hints about a new direction and new name for the museum but I wasn’t sure what was happening and felt I needed that information before I could offer my support.
Sure there were the series of high profile successful, exhibits arriving in town but I didn’t see a common thread that tied them together. I also had trouble connecting them to my understanding of the mission of a Children’s Museum.
So when I saw a couple of Waterloo Region Record articles refer almost incidentally that the name had been changed to The Museum, I tweeted that these references begged the question, “What kind of museum?” One follower agreed and felt there was no clear vision. I disagreed about the lack of vision though the best I could do was refer to the hints.
At that point, I received an invitation to meet with David Marskell so that he could outline the direction they were heading. I happily accepted. In short, I understood that the intent was to create a general interest museum that would simultaneously target its exhibits to five age ranges. Keeping the name open ended would allow the museum the freedom to bring in the very best of all that is available or to initiate its own exhibits as it did with Warhol. In theory, a trip to the museum could have something for just about everyone in the family including a dedicated exhibit for kids—there would even be something for hip, urban adults without kids. I concluded that there was a vision that deserved support.
At this point, the details still seem a bit fuzzy to me and I believe that work still needs to be done to bring it sharply into focus so that it can begin to be implemented in a strategic manner. But with an increase in municipal funding secured for this year and time to plan, I am now cautiously optimistic about the museum’s future.
If everything unfolds as I expect, I am confident that The Museum will be able to make a strong case to the Creative Enterprise initiative for strong annual funding that will give it the stability it needs to fully develop into a treasured cultural asset—the kind of place in Marskell’s words “where a family from Cambridge comes on a Sunday just because they know they will enjoy the day no matter what the exhibits are or where you automatically take out of town guests.”
When we get there, we’ll know that we have a museum we could never live without.