The Utica Children’s Museum is a small non-profit in the heart of the Bagg’s Square district of Utica, devoted to supporting every child’s natural curiosity to learn through hands-on, play-based exploration. With a focus on STEAM education and tactile learning, the museum provides an enriching environment for young children from central New York to grow as independent and critical thinkers. Though the museum suffers from chronic funding issues, it remains a beloved institution in the Mohawk Valley and is making strives toward financial stability. Recently, it was chosen by the Class of 2017 members of the Konosioni Senior Honor Society at Colgate University to receive $2,500 from their Madison County Gives fund to put toward creating a new Sensory Zone on the first floor of the museum. This is one component of the museum’s initiative to incorporate STEAM programs into the learning experience of young visitors.
For this research project, we were asked to examine two main questions: (1) How have children’s museums in small cities used innovative collaborations or other creative efforts to achieve economic stability? (2) Have children’s museums contributed to – and benefited from – urban renaissance movements? We began with the Alliance of Children’s Museums to compile a comprehensive list of similar institutions to emulate. To narrow down this list, we selected museums that are located in economically stagnant regions in the Rust Belt, in cities with declining populations, and possibly housed in old buildings. As a result of our research we have discovered that museums fitting our criteria tend to partner with local colleges, libraries, and immigrant/refugee communities, and have strong website designs. Our final product for the museum will be a report on strategies to achieve financial security based on the methods of these other museums.
It has been incredibly rewarding to work for the Utica Children’s Museum. We both strongly support the museum’s commitment to creating a higher standard of educational experiences for the children of Utica and the Upstate region. We hope that our research this summer will allow the museum to continue building long-lasting connections with the students and families it serves and improve the quality of life in this region.