ACM Trends #7.2 Meeting Children Where They Are



Data for this report was collected through a search of available literature. This research was supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

The world is designed for mobile media, including smartphones and tablets, and young children are already using these tools in a range of settings. This ACM Trends report summarizes what is currently known about the ubiquity of mobile media in young children’s lives, including the caregivers’ decisions about their children’s use. We end with a consideration of how children’s museums might take advantage of current uses. This report builds on ACM Trends 7.1, which explored general principles of digital media that supports powerful learning.

This report is based on a review of the research literature. We read dozens of empirical reports and peer-reviewed articles about early childhood media use, from university researchers and organizations like Sesame Workshop, PBS KIDS, Common Sense Media, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Fred Rogers Institute, and the American Association of Pediatrics. One challenge in reviewing this research is a lack of consensus definitions. That means we took a broad view and included any research about media content for young children delivered over the internet, from synchronous digital programming and live video calls to games and apps.

Read the full ACM Trends #7.2 report >

MuseumLab for Museum Professionals Announces Inaugural Cohort Awardees

Five projects developed by children’s museum professionals recognized for outstanding ideation and planning

The Association of Children’s Museum (ACM), the world’s foremost professional society supporting and advocating on behalf of children’s museums, and those who work at and otherwise sustain them, together with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (CMP), is pleased to announce the MuseumLab for Museum Professionals (MLMP) 2024 cohort project awardees. An eight-month professional learning program, MLMP is designed to spark creative innovation that will make museums nimble in proactively adapting to our communities’ changing needs. Five outstanding project prototypes and implementation plans developed by MLMP participants from children’s museum were selected among the inaugural cohort.

Play-Goh Travel Activity Set –Traci Buckner, Executive Director, Akron Children’s Museum

A Tale of Two Projects: The Disk-O and the Chaotic Reveal  –  Daniel Guyton, Traveling Exhibits Manager, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Mobile Museum Pods – Brennon Land, Executive Director, Alaska Children’s Museum

The Brainstorm Savita Madan, Makerspace Coordinator, Kidzu Children’s Museum

Willow Whispers: The Joy of Connection – Rachel Towns, Director of Exhibits, Miami Children’s Museum

Each project was awarded $2,000 to be paid to their respective museums with a notation that it is to further the implementation of their projects.

Hosted through a collaborative partnership of ACM and CMP and guided by a steering committee of established leaders in the museum field, MLMP melded synchronous in-person and online learning with personalized coaching from experts. The program was developed to guide children’s museum professionals as they turned deep questions into actionable implementation plans. Through MLMP, participants received customized support in prototyping and budgeting those plans within their organizations and beyond.

A volunteer selection committee anonymously reviewed the plans at ACM’s annual conference, InterActivity: Flourish!, on May 17, 2024. Like the cohort, they represent small, medium, and large museums, a variety of positions and experience, as well as geographic locations.

The review committee included:

Cindy DeFrances, Executive Director, Lynn Meadows Children’s Museum
Madai Favaro, Manager, Program Team & Delivery, Glazer Children’s Museum
Robin Gose, EdD, CEO, MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation
Roxane Hill, Executive Director, The Regnier Family Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City
Lauren Kaye, Special Projects Manager, Children’s Museum Tucson
Margo Malter, Director of Exhibits, Long Island Children’s Museum
Conrad Meyers, Head of Facilities & Exhibit Production, Bay Area Discovery Museum
Kimberly Stull, Chief of Building & Making, DuPage Children’s Museum
Vi Tran, Exhibit Designer, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

More about the winning projects:

Play-Goh Travel Activity Set (Buckner)

Play-Goh offers an opportunity for children to learn through play when traveling. Buckner’s Play-Goh was inspired by the partnership the Akron Children’s Museum developed with the Akron Canton Airport. The museum was presented with the opportunity to increase its presence with items for young travelers placed in retail space, which is how Play-Goh came to life. The process used for developing and testing the Play-Goh idea included multiple ideation sessions with museum educators, parents of young children, and the MLMP cohort members. As a result, Play-Goh was identified as a STEM-centered activity set that offers multiple uses and new experiences. This project matters because it extends the museum’s reach beyond its walls. The project also fulfills one of the four Akron Children’s Museum pillars: STEM education. The museum wants to be part of the solution for parents who want activities for their children to use creativity through play and think critically when outside of a formal learning setting. Visiting the museum on a regular basis may not be viable for most families; Play-Goh offers an informal learning opportunity to occur wherever the child is.

A Tale of Two Projects: The Disk-O and the Chaotic Reveal (Guyton)

The MLMP process for Guyton was a lesson in the art of pivoting based on time and resources therefore yielding two concepts. The Disk-O—still in ideation—is a multi-layered exhibition that experiments with using a unified form factor of manipulative play-pieces to offer expansive, immersive opportunities for inquiry-based experiences at varying developmental stages. This exhibition will explore the benefits of cross-pollination of integrated play pieces, creating opportunities for deep learning, and discovery. The Chaotic Reveal is a visually pleasing and intriguing exhibit that can utilize any type of visual media to create a layered interactive experience with a depth of possibility. A passive engagement experience with no electrical or mechanical feedback, this exhibit relies on the user’s curiosity and drive for discovery for engagement. The Chaotic Reveal has seen two rounds of prototyping and is poised for various implementations both within the museum walls and out.

Through these initiatives, the aim is to bridge the gap between early childhood exploration and more advanced educational experiences, ensuring that every visitor’s journey through the museum is both enlightening and enchanting.

Mobile Museum Pods (Land)

Alaska Children’s Museum started as a low budget mobile museum-without-walls by partnering with local organizations and providing activities at a few events—which has quadrupled over time. The need for something easy to transport and set-up while remaining unique and engaging quickly emerged. The solution was a concept for a self-contained modular mobile museum pod system that uses flight-case style boxes that are designed to be interactive outside and in, with specific themes so that they become an “exhibit in a box.” When open, the boxes themselves create the museum “walls” and can be mixed and matched for different occasions and audiences. The final version of the pod project will be an exhibit system that can be customized through collaborations with artists to create unique mobile exhibits that combine art and education. This allows the museum to create more custom exhibits, engage and uplift local artists, lend exhibits to other museums, offer children’s museum pop up programming to Rural Alaska communities, and provide a scalable option for any museum, library, school or other institution needing movable, semi-permanent exhibits and activities.

The Brainstorm (Madan)

The Brainstorm is a multifaceted, interactive antechamber to a Makerspace that inspires creative ideation and intentionality in maker-based learning experiences through four cohesive mechanical and digital exhibit elements. Makerspaces have become a quintessential part of informal education environments because they provide an excellent venue for young learners to develop and improve a myriad of skills pertinent to their interests, goals, and future outcomes. However, these opportunities could be significantly more impactful with The Brainstorm, which seeks to provide young learners with more meaningful experiences through personalized scaffolding, real-world context based problem solving, and opportunities to collaborate and be inspired by peers.

Each of the four elements in this antechamber allow guests to contribute to a communal ‘Brainstorm’ of ideas through multimodal, adaptive, and interactive exhibits that can then be used as a jumping off point for Makerspace creations by emphasizing a child’s potential for creating in an impactful way. Research indicates that learning is better internalized when done in a real-world or personally relatable context. By creating a space for Makers to dream big, be inspired by their peers, make connections between ideas, and anchor these ideas in meaningful work, not only are they given the best chance at a profound learning experience, they are supported in becoming tomorrow’s leaders, changemakers, and innovators.

Willow Whispers: The Joy of Connection (Towns)

This project is an extension on a prototype called “The Joy Box” which evoked joy by connecting items with the senses. The Joy Box morphed into an experiential sensory willow tree focused on the themes of joy, memory, and connection. Willow Whispers is envisioned as an immersive, sensory, and contemplative exhibit through which guests are invited to lay amongst the roots of a large willow tree in zero gravity moonpod like beanbags, look up to see the rhythmically pulsing lights and hear the soothing sounds of high vibrational music, while experiencing a soft rain fall of bubbles and light scent. Additionally, guests will create a memento of their experience by writing, drawing, or stamping their own creations on a ribbon that they can tie on the tree or take with them. An opportunity for delight and healing, the exhibit creates a space to be present in a memorable, meaningful, and much-needed way.

A complete list of all the MLMP participants and a program overview may be found at www.ChildrensMuseums.org/mlmp.

###

ACM welcomes four new board members and new board president

Arlington, Va.—The Association of Children’s Museum (ACM), the world’s foremost professional society supporting and advocating on behalf of children’s museums, and those who work at and otherwise sustain them, is pleased to name its new and returning Board of Directors for 2024. The new members were elected as a slate by the ACM Membership and revealed during its annual conference, InterActivity 2024: Flourish!, held from May 15-17 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Newly joining the ACM Board as At-Large Members for three-year terms are:

· Stewart L. Burgess, PhD, Executive Director, The Children’s Museum of Memphis
· Kelly McKinley, CEO, Bay Area Discovery Museum
· Charlayne Murrell-Smith, VP External Relations & Corporate Development, Boston Children’s Museum
· Caroline Payson, Executive Director, Providence Children’s Museum

Joe Cox, President & CEO at Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was welcomed as Board President for the 2024–2026 term, succeeding Joe Hastings, Co-Executive Director, Explora! The Science Center and Children’s Museum of Albuquerque.

“The ACM Board of Directors represents the ACM membership as leaders in the children’s museum field,” said ACM Executive Director Arthur G. Affleck, III. “This governing body of volunteers guides and advises the association and our strategic work to elevate the children’s museum community, lift up children and families, advance the field through advocacy, policy, and research, and strengthen the organization.”

ACM’s work is guided by its strategic plan—approved by the Board and introduced in January 2023—and evaluated through the two overarching lenses of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI), and environmental resiliency and regeneration.

More about the ACM Board leadership:

New Board President:
Joe Cox has served as the President and CEO of the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, since February 2018. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Museum connects more than 450,000 visitors to inspiring science annually. He has worked in the museum field for more than 20 years having previously served as the President of the EcoTarium Museum of Science and Nature in Worcester, Massachusetts (2012–2018) and as Founding Executive Director of the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, Florida (2004–2012) where he led a campaign to raise more than $25million to build the Museum. Joe has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science from St. Mary’s University in London with a focus on environmental law and paleoquaternary biogeography and completed his Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester. Joe was the recipient of a

Smithsonian Fellowship in Museum Practice based at the National Zoo and National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. He completed the Getty Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Joe is past Chair of the Florida Association of Museums Foundation.

New At-Large Board Members:

Stewart L. Burgess, Ph.D is a developmental psychologist specializing in early learning who has spent the last two-plus decades designing and implementing child-centered curriculum, creating innovative educational spaces, and leading parent and teacher education workshops.

While completing his master’s degree in Experimental Psychology he conducted original research on the problem-solving abilities of young children and was a member of the team responsible for creating and norming the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories (MacArthur CDI), the first and foremost assessment of early language development and the largest-scale longitudinal study of infant and toddler language acquisition that has ever been undertaken. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine, where he was named a UC Board of Regents Dissertation Fellow for his research on the effects of emotion on memory in young children. While at UCI, he served as a graduate student researcher in support of the prominent large-scale longitudinal study of cross-cultural achievement led by Stevenson and Chen. Dr. Burgess went on to become the Lead Researcher and Managing Editor of Brilliant Beginnings in Long Beach, California, where he co-authored Toddler Next StepsTM, a book for parents and educators which earned the National Parenting Seal of Approval and two Director’s Choice awards for outstanding quality in parenting and professional development materials (Early Childhood News).

After serving on the board of trustees for the Children’s Museum of Memphis for four years, Dr. Burgess now serves as its Executive Director where he is spearheading educational updates to exhibits and programing, working to position the museum as a meaningful educational anchor for the community, and launching educational outreach for children and families in need of educational access. These efforts include significant partnerships with large-scale non-profits with access to families from lower income neighborhoods and significant marketing in the form of newspaper columns, news interviews, and online articles promoting the importance of early learning that have been accessed by millions.

Kelly McKinley is the CEO of the Bay Area Discovery Museum, a children’s museum at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, California. She previously served as Deputy Director of the Oakland Museum of California where she oversaw collections, conservation, curatorial, interpretation, exhibition design and production, and evaluation and visitor research. Other professional roles have included Executive Director of Education and Public Programming at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada, and senior roles at Bruce Mau Design in Toronto and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Kelly has lectured internationally on museum leadership and taught in the graduate museum studies programs at the University Toronto, Bank Street College in New York, the University of San Francisco, and the graduate curatorial studies and criticism program at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto. She has served on the board of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the Museum Education Roundtable and EdCom (the AAM professional network for museum educators) and the editorial board of Curator: The Museum Journal. Her writing and work has been featured in recent publications including What is a Museum: Perspectives from National and International Museum Leaders (eds. Quinn and Peña Gutiérrez for ICOM-US); The Inclusive Museum Leader (eds. Catlin-Legutko and Taylor, 2021) and Museums Involving Communities: Authentic Connections (Kadoyama, 2018).

Charlayne Murrell-Smith is the Vice-President of External Relations & Corporate Development at Boston Children’s Museum. She joined the Museum in 1996 to oversee communications and development and is currently responsible for the corporate, civic, government, and community work to advance its mission, programs, public profile, and financial health. She also manages the Museum’s community engagement staff and initiatives befitting the children and families of Boston and beyond.

Prior to joining the Museum, Charlayne was Director of Client Services and Strategic Planning for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, where she was responsible for the coordination and delivery of programs and services to Chamber members and served as Chief Operating Officer. She has also served as Project Vice President and General Manager of the Wishnow Group, Inc., a public affairs consulting company specializing in local and national social issues campaigns; Community Affairs Director of WHDH-AM and WZOU-FM; and was a guidance counselor in the Cambridge and Newton Public Schools.

A native of Denver, Colorado, Charlayne holds degrees from Wellesley College and Northeastern University. Her current affiliations include the Boards of Directors of Boston Children’s Chorus, Friends of Martin’s Park, Inc, Meet Boston, Seaport TMA, The American City Coalition, Third Sector Holdings, and the YMCA of Greater Boston. She is also on the advisory boards of Boston Harbor Now and the Greater Boston Chamber’s Women’s Network and Hospitality and Tourism Leadership Council.

Charlayne and has been recognized for her civic involvement and leadership including a Pinnacle Award for achievement in non-profit management from the Women’s Network of the Greater Boston Chamber, EXTRAordinary Women of Boston by the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, and Leading Women by the Girl Scouts of Eastern MA.

Caroline Payson previously served as the Director of Education of the Smithsonian CooperHewitt National Design Museum for 11 years. In that role, she was responsible for conveying the importance of design and design thinking in everyday life education programs for audiences including teachers, students, professional designers, scholars and the general public. Major initiatives included the website’s Educator’s Resource Center (400 standards-based lessons in all curriculum subject areas and videos modeling best practices); Design-in-the-Classroom, the Harlem Design Center; and National Design Week. The Museum’s annual outreach and impact included 25,000 students, family events for 5,000, after school programs for 1000 students, public programs attended by 1,200 people and a school tour program for 6,000 students.

Additionally, Caroline Payson has a long history of community-based work and other programs that extend beyond museum walls including workshops across the US. Current projects include a mental health initiative that includes children of incarcerated parents and a 5G project funded by Verizon that includes AR/VR.

A complete list of the ACM Board of Directors can be found on the ACM website.

###

ACM Trends #7.1 Designing Digital Media for Learning

Download ACM Trends #7.1

Data for this report was collected through a review of existing literature. This research was supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

When designed well, virtual programming and online experiences can facilitate meaningful learning moments in early childhood.

This ACM Trends report focuses on these digital media as one educational tool in the museum toolkit. Several well-regarded early childhood organizations have endorsed particular uses of media even for very young children, and we explore the principles and the research behind them before turning to criteria that can help identify when media is the right tool. ACM Trends 7.2 will build on this report by looking at empirical questions that must inform design: how often children use media, which children use media, and where children use media.

This Trends report reviews the research findings and concludes with practical advice for children’s museums seeking to design meaningful digital media experiences for young children.

Read the full ACM Trends #7.1 report >

ACM Trends #6.4 Collaborating with Libraries: What Children’s Museums Need to Know Copy

Download ACM Trends #6.4

Data for this report comes from two surveys. That pertaining to children’s museums’ collaborations with libraries was collected through the Spring 2023 ACM Member Collaborations survey. The dataset contains information from 59 member institutions. Data on library collaborations with museums was collected through a NILPPA survey of US libraries conducted in 2022. This dataset contains information from 314 libraries. Research for both of these projects is supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (Grant #s: MG-251839-
OMS-22; MG-80-19-0042-19; LG-250153-OLS-21).

Libraries and museums have a shared mission as sites of informal learning.

Both museums and libraries are in the process of expanding the ways they serve their communities, going beyond informal learning to become sites for convening, health and wellness, and other community needs. As their roles change, there are new opportunities for museum-library partnerships. To help children’s museums leverage their existing library partnerships (or form new ones) in support of newly emerging goals, this Trends Report offers a library centered perspective on what makes partnerships effective. What are libraries looking for in a prospective community partner? What do they value in their collaborative relationships? And what are new ways children’s museums can work with libraries to support broader community goals?

The survey also offered insights into the goals children’s museums are pursuing through collaboration. Though varying considerably, museums’ collaborative goals are connected to three broadly shared aims: (1) healing; (2) learning; (3) community. In what follows, we discuss how these findings can help children’s museums understand, approach, and evaluate collaborative work. Our hope is that sharing this information will not only stimulate dialogue around collaboration and partnership, but also help children’s museum leaders plan new collaborative programs and begin the process of building relationships with new partners.

To address these questions, we explore findings from two recent IMLS-funded field-wide surveys: (1) the Spring 2023 ACM Member Collaborations Survey (whose results we discussed in ACM Trends Report 6.3); (2) a 2022 survey conducted by Knology and the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office (ALA PPO) as part of an IMLS-funded project called “National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment” (NILPPA.org). Both surveys included questions about collaborative programming, and their results offer insights into how libraries and children’s museums can expand and strengthen their partnerships in support of shared institutional and community goals.

Read the full ACM Trends #6.4 report >

ACM Introduces “Empowering Young Minds” Podcast

Empowering Young Minds hosted by Arthur G. Affleck, III.

ACM Executive Director

Join us as we explore innovative practices and groundbreaking research shaping the future of children, unlocking potential for lifelong learning, discovery, and social-emotional development. Whether you’re a parent, educator, museum professional, or simply someone who believes in the transformative power of childhood, Empowering Young Minds has something for you. Tune in monthly for inspiring stories, practical tips, and a healthy dose of laughter as we rediscover the joy of learning through play.

Episode 1-3 are now available online featuring interviews with Jean Margaret Smith, Dr. Leah Austin, Dr. Frederic Bertley, and Joe Cox.

Here’s what you can look forward to on future episodes:

INSPIRING CONVERSATIONS: We’ll chat with educators, museum curators, researchers, and passionate advocates who champion the rights of all children to a healthy, safe, and equitable future.

DEEP DIVES INTO PLAYFUL LEARNING: Discover how museums ignite curiosity, spark critical thinking, and nurture creativity through interactive exhibits and engaging programs.

ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS: Learn practical tips and strategies to bring playful learning experiences into your own homes, communities, and classrooms.

CELEBRATING DIVERSE VOICES: We’ll amplify the voices of children and families from all backgrounds, ensuring every child’s unique perspectives and experiences are heard.

THE FUTURE OF EARLY LEARNING: Exploring innovative trends and technologies shaping the way we engage young minds.

From Constraints to Opportunities: Redefining Museum Experience Through a Small Museum Lens

By: Stephen Wisniewski

Recognizing the depth and usefulness of a small museum approach, and centering it in our field, can allow us to see much more expansive possibilities by thinking and practicing from the bottom up, rather than seeing compromise and limitation from the top down.

When I joined the FFACES project as a small museum advisor, I didn’t know what to expect. Of course, I understood the basic contours and goals of the project—to adapt a traveling exhibit series that had previously visited mostly very large, well-resourced institutions so it could be permanently installed in smaller children’s museums and underserved areas—but it also seemed like I was entering an entirely different world.

Like many of us in small museums, I had never considered hosting a traveling exhibit. As the sole member of our exhibits team, I occasionally saw promotional materials or received email offers for them. However, the rental fees were often triple our annual budget. Additionally, the reality of our facilities made it clear that traveling exhibits were not designed to be accessible to us in the first place—with no loading dock, small doorways, and limited exhibit and storage space, most traveling exhibits were both financially and logistically impossible.

Moreover, I doubted whether the large exhibits I encountered would align with our audience and mission.

Conversations with colleagues from larger institutions revealed stark differences in our perspectives and terminologies. We lacked shared understandings of terms like “immersion” and “consumables,” highlighting the communication gap between our worlds. It became evident that adapting large exhibits for small museums required more than just scaling them down. This project offered an opportunity to completely reimagine the design and fabrication process, placing small museums at its core.

I believe that this reframing is part of a larger conversation that should be happening across the field; one that encourages us to think critically about resources, practices, and about what and who we value, both in terms of institutions and audience. Most importantly, this reframing recognizes small museums as not simply a limited version of a larger museum, but as fully formed, sophisticated, innovative institutions that can serve as models for any museum.

So what does it mean to think from a small museum perspective? It’s tempting to answer this question with a clear set of practical guidelines, since from the outside, it might seem that much of what defines a small museum is resource or facility limitations.

How do you accommodate weird, repurposed spaces?

Limited electrical outlets?

No tech support or regular maintenance?

In fact, designing to a set of “rules” for small museums is perhaps not even useful, because the diversity of small museums is so wildly broad—it’s difficult to apply standardized design principles to a 1,000 square-foot strip mall storefront and also a barely renovated Victorian house. Rather, it is far more useful to holistically reframe our thinking about exhibits and operations to be expansive and from the ground-up, using broadly inclusive principles and resource-conscious creativity. 

One common small museum consideration that seems to consistently surprise larger museum colleagues is that most small children’s museums don’t have the staff resources to facilitate activities, or even restage them regularly. On a busy day, most exhibits on my museum’s floor might not have any staff attention for hours, or even until after closing. This represents one of the most illuminating examples of something that might seem like a practical limitation, but actually reveals a core strength of small museums, which is the embrace of a truly self-guided, discovery-based approach. Small museums by necessity need to provide experiences that work for a wide range of ages, that are intuitive with minimal instructions and signage, can work without being reset or maintained for long periods of time, and can maintain engagement with repeat visitors over multiple visits and many years. That’s not just difficult, that’s almost magical. And we’re able to do that magic because we are small, not in spite of it.

Designing for low/no technology, no facilitation, and low maintenance is not a constraint or a compromise, but an opportunity for museums of any size. Choosing materials that can safely remain on an exhibit floor without daily laundering benefits both those who do—and don’t—have an on-site washing machine. Consciously using exhibit pieces that have the lowest possible replacement rate and cost benefits the staff at any museum. Recognizing that “special exhibit fees” make our institutions exclusionary benefits all visitors. A small museum perspective is accessibility in practice.

Advocating for the importance of a small museum perspective, and not just for consideration of small museums per se, is important beyond a single phase of this project. And that perspective can ultimately give us more inclusive models for building experiences and building relationships to the communities we serve.

5 Key Takeaways:

Reframing Perspectives:
Recognize the depth and usefulness of a small museum approach by reframing perspectives from the bottom up, rather than seeing compromise and limitation from the top down. This shift allows for more expansive possibilities in thinking and practicing within the field.
 
Adapting to Challenges:

Small museums often face unique challenges such as limited resources, space constraints, and minimal staff support. However, these challenges can be opportunities for creativity and innovation in designing exhibits and operations.
 
Embracing Self-Guided Exploration:

Small museums excel in providing self-guided, discovery-based experiences due to limited staff resources. This approach fosters engagement across a wide range of ages and encourages intuitive exploration with minimal instructions or facilitation.

Opportunities for Accessibility:
Designing for low/no technology, minimal facilitation, and low maintenance isn’t a constraint but an opportunity for museums of any size. Prioritizing materials with low replacement rates and inclusive pricing structures promotes accessibility for all visitors.

Advocating for Inclusivity:
Advocating for the importance of a small museum perspective extends beyond individual institutions. It promotes more inclusive models for building experiences and relationships with the communities served, benefiting the broader museum field.
 
 
 

About the Contributor:
Stephen Wisniewski has worked with and in small children’s museums for 20+ years primarily designing and building exhibits. He is currently an independent consultant specializing in small museum operations, exhibit design, and content. Stephen has a PhD in American Culture with expertise in Museum Studies and Cultural Studies, as well as an extensive background in visual art, DIY design and building projects, and independent art and education spaces—but mostly likes to make cool things for kids to play with.


This blog post is the first in a series of small museum perspectives that emerged from the ACM Freeman Foundation Asian Culture Exhibits Series (FFACES). Introduced as a traveling exhibit model, FFACES has been effective, with a total of twelve impactful exhibits created for two national tours. Each tour reached 3.4 million people—or 6.8 million visitors—total.The latest new round of the FFACES features modular exhibits about East Asian cultures for museums, which can be used in galleries and in outreach events. These new exhibits have a smaller footprint (500–1,000 square feet), and museums can rearrange them to fit in smaller or larger spaces. By remaining at the museum and in the community, the modular exhibit’s content becomes a part of children’s long-term memories, and can create a deeper experience than the temporary attraction of a traveling exhibit.

Children and Museums: You Can’t Start Early Enough: An Article featured in The New York Times, in Collaboration with ACM

The Association of Children’s Museums recently worked with The New York Times on an article highlighting the emphasis and importance of children’s programs in museums in the United States! The article dives into the trends within non-children’s museums and discusses the work of various children’s museums across the country, highlighting quotes from Arthur Affleck and ACM member museums. You can read the full article in The New York Times here: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/27/arts/design/museums-childrens-programs.html

ACM Executive Director Honored with AAM Advocacy Leadership Award

Arthur G. Affleck, III recognized for advocacy and leadership representing children’s museums and the museum field

ACM’s Executive Director Arthur G. Affleck, III with AAM’s Interim CEO/Chief of Staff Brooke Leonard and fellow honoree Brenda Granger, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Museums Association (OMA), at Museums Advocacy Day 2024. Photo by © AAM/Todd Buchanan 2024

ACM is pleased to share that the association’s executive director, Arthur G. Affleck, III, has been honored by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) with a 2024 Advocacy Leadership Award.

The award, which was presented during AAM’s Museums Advocacy Day on February 26, 2024, is presented annually to advocates who demonstrate exemplary leadership in their advocacy for the museum field.

“As Executive Director of ACM, Arthur brings a passion for education and equity as well as a proven record of accomplishment in the nonprofit sector,” says Brooke Leonard, Interim CEO/chief of staff at AAM, of the recognition. “Arthur’s commitment to elevating children’s museums and enriching the lives of children and families has led ACM to new levels of activity, visibility, and impact.”

Arthur joined ACM as Executive Director in January 2022, to lead the association which serves more than 470 members in 50 states and 11 countries. Under his vision and leadership, ACM has expanded programs, established new partnerships, and prioritized advocacy at all levels of government and across the museum field as critical for not only children’s museums, but for museums of all types. This work is guided by ACM’s new strategic plan, introduced in January 2023. The plan includes four aligned priorities which include elevating the children’s museum community, lifting up children and families, advancing the field through advocacy, policy, and research, and strengthening the organization. ACM’s participation in AAM’s annual Museums Advocacy Day, as well as the concentrated strategic initiatives, research, and professional development, reflect the importance of amplifying the field and championing issues that effect it.

Upon receiving the award, Arthur shared the recognition with the ACM Board of Directors, professional staff, and members of the field, and emphasized, “this award belongs not just to me, but to my colleagues at ACM and the countless individuals and organizations dedicated to advocating for museums and their essential role in our society so that we may all better support children and families.”

“This award belongs not just to me, but to my colleagues at ACM and the countless individuals and organizations dedicated to advocating for museums and their essential role in our society so that we may all better support children and families.”

Arthur Affleck, upon receiving the award, shared the recognition with the ACM Board of Directors, professional staff, and members of the field.

Meet the InterActivity 2024: Flourish! Opening Plenary Speakers!

ACM, together with our partnering host museum, Madison Children’s Museum, will convene children’s museums professionals across the world at InterActivity 2024: Flourish!, May 15-17.

A highlight of every InterActivity, the opening plenary session highlights a keynote presentation that leverages expert knowledge in a related field to address the issues and opportunities confronting children’s museums. This year, the opening plenary will feature three small talks speakers framing lively short presentations around the conference theme, highlighting the ways museums, communities, and the children we serve can flourish in an ever-changing world.


Lynda Barry
Cartoonist and Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity   

Drawbridge: Making Comics with Kids

How old do you have to be to make a bad drawing? Most people give up on being able to draw at about the age of eight or nine when they realize they can’t draw a nose or hands in a representational way. There is another kind of drawing that can leap right over this problem of good and bad, which can allow us to experience a way of making pictures that set the conditions for discovery and insight and can be used by anyone of any age. What might it be? Can drawing with kids bring mutual benefit?

Lynda Barry has worked as a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, playwright, editor, commentator and teacher and found they are very much alike. The New York Times has described Barry as “among this country’s greatest conjoiners of words and images, known for plumbing all kinds of touchy subjects in cartoons, comic strips and novels, both graphic and illustrated.” She earned a degree from Evergreen State College during its early experimental period (1974-78), studying with painter and writing teacher
Marilyn Frasca. Frasca’s questions about the nature of images and the role they play in day-to-day living have guided Barry’s work ever since. In 1979 while pursuing a career as a painter, Barry began drawing a weekly comic strip incorporating stories considered to be incompatible with comics at the time. Stories, as Barry puts it, “that had a lot of trouble in them.” Widely credited with expanding the literary, thematic and emotional range of American comics, Barry’s seminal comic strip, Ernie Pook’s Comeek, ran in alternative newspapers across North America for thirty years


Richard J. Davidson, PhD
William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and Founder & Director of the Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Founder and Chief Visionary for Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc.  

The Science of Wellbeing: Teaching and Training for Healthy Minds, Brains, and Bodies

Just like being physically in shape means regular exercise, supporting one’s emotional well-being begins with a training program – for the mind. In this talk, world renowned neuroscientist, Dr. Richard J. Davidson discusses the scientific concept of neuroplasticity and how research in the lab confirms that well-being is a skill that can be taught. By learning and practicing the skills associated with awareness, connection, insight, and purpose – anyone can have a healthier mind, despite their external circumstances. Based on four decades of contemplative neuroscientific research, Dr. Davidson outlines a path to well-being for anyone in this highly relevant talk.

Davidson received his PhD from Harvard University in Psychology in 1976. Davidson’s research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style and methods to promote human flourishing including meditation and related contemplative practices. He has published over 573 articles, numerous chapters and reviews and edited 14 books. He is the author (with Sharon Begley) of “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” published in 2012 and co-author with Daniel Goleman of “Altered Traits” published in 2017. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2006. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2017 and appointed to the Governing Board of UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) in 2018. In 2014, Davidson founded the non-profit, Healthy Minds Innovations, which translates science into tools to cultivate and measure well-being.


Charles Hua
Founder and Executive Director of PowerLines, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Programs Office, and Research Affiliate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 

negative space
Discussing his climate journey—from first learning about climate change and the importance of taking initiative from his second teacher to launching a campaign for Madison Metropolitan School District to become the nation’s then-largest school district with a 100% renewable energy goal to now serving in the Biden-Harris Administration and advising on clean energy policy—Charles Hua will illustrate how the thoughtful mentorship and support he received along the way has shaped him into the person and leader he now aspires to be. 

Charles Hua is the Founder and Executive Director of PowerLines, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Programs Office, and Research Affiliate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Previously, Charles advanced building electrification policy with Rewiring America. In college, Charles was appointed to serve on the Harvard Presidential Committee on Sustainability, where he helped develop and write Harvard’s sustainability plan and organized the inaugural Harvard Climate Summit. Charles has advised Fortune 500 companies and international NGOs on sustainability issues and serves on the Board of Directors for environmental nonprofits Slipstream, Energy News Network, and Clean Wisconsin. Born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, Charles organized a campaign that successfully petitioned his school district to become the largest in the U.S. at the time with a 100% renewable energy commitment. For his work, Charles has been recognized by the White House as a 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholar, by the Aspen Institute as a Future Climate Leader, and as an Energy News Network 40 Under 40 honoree. Charles holds an A.B. in Statistics and Mathematics from Harvard College.


Barry, Davidson, and Hua will present on Thursday, May 16 at the Opening Plenary session at InterActivity 2024. For more details about the entire conference, view the preliminary program. Registration is now open.

ACM Trends #6.4 Collaborating with Libraries: What Children’s Museums Need to Know

Download ACM Trends #6.4

Data for this report comes from two surveys. That pertaining to children’s museums’ collaborations with libraries was collected through the Spring 2023 ACM Member Collaborations survey. The dataset contains information from 59 member institutions. Data on library collaborations with museums was collected through a NILPPA survey of US libraries conducted in 2022. This dataset contains information from 314 libraries. Research for both of these projects is supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (Grant #s: MG-251839-
OMS-22; MG-80-19-0042-19; LG-250153-OLS-21).

Libraries and museums have a shared mission as sites of informal learning.

Both museums and libraries are in the process of expanding the ways they serve their communities, going beyond informal learning to become sites for convening, health and wellness, and other community needs. As their roles change, there are new opportunities for museum-library partnerships. To help children’s museums leverage their existing library partnerships (or form new ones) in support of newly emerging goals, this Trends Report offers a library centered perspective on what makes partnerships effective. What are libraries looking for in a prospective community partner? What do they value in their collaborative relationships? And what are new ways children’s museums can work with libraries to support broader community goals?

The survey also offered insights into the goals children’s museums are pursuing through collaboration. Though varying considerably, museums’ collaborative goals are connected to three broadly shared aims: (1) healing; (2) learning; (3) community. In what follows, we discuss how these findings can help children’s museums understand, approach, and evaluate collaborative work. Our hope is that sharing this information will not only stimulate dialogue around collaboration and partnership, but also help children’s museum leaders plan new collaborative programs and begin the process of building relationships with new partners.

To address these questions, we explore findings from two recent IMLS-funded field-wide surveys: (1) the Spring 2023 ACM Member Collaborations Survey (whose results we discussed in ACM Trends Report 6.3); (2) a 2022 survey conducted by Knology and the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office (ALA PPO) as part of an IMLS-funded project called “National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment” (NILPPA.org). Both surveys included questions about collaborative programming, and their results offer insights into how libraries and children’s museums can expand and strengthen their partnerships in support of shared institutional and community goals.

Read the full ACM Trends #6.4 report >

Nickelodeon Shares Community Resources: Talking to Kids about Difficult Current Events

It can be tough to discuss difficult topics with kids, but having candid conversations can help your child understand and cope with disturbing current events. ACM partnering organization Nickelodeon put together Nickelodeon’s Guide to Talking to Kids About Difficult Current Events. This guide was created to help parents, educators, and caregivers prepare for conversations with children about current events.

In addition, Nickelodeon recently shared the interview on CBS Mornings with Jamie Howard, PhD, Sr. Clinical Psychologist at Child Mind Institute, who shares age-appropriate tips for parents for navigating questions that kids may have about what is happening in Israel and in Gaza.


Traumatic and tragic events in the news can deeply affect the children and families the children’s museum field serves. As community resources and advocates for children, children’s museums can help build socioemotional supports for children and those who love and care for them.

Click here to access all the Trauma Resources curated by ACM >

Nickelodeon and ACM Partner for Return of Annual Worldwide Day of Play on Saturday, September 30

Nickelodeon today announced the return of its global Worldwide Day of Play (WWDoP) campaign, in partnership with the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM).  Worldwide Day of Play will take place Sept. 30, 2023. Part of Nickelodeon’s Our World, a brand-new global initiative, with the goal of inspiring kids and helping to provide them with tools to strengthen their individual and collective agency. To date, events are planned by children’s museums and other organizations across the U.S., the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and more.

Through Worldwide Day of Play, Nickelodeon has fueled a generation who values playing and being active,” said Jean Margaret Smith, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, Nickelodeon. “The Association of Children’s Museums is the perfect partner to help us mark the return of this beloved annual event as an anchor program for the Our World initiative, allowing us to showcase the importance of play and the role it can play in building confidence and helping to upskill kids around the globe.”

“Play is a powerful experience that enriches people’s lives in museums, schools, homes, and beyond,” states Arthur G. Affleck, III, executive director of the Association of Children’s Museums. “ACM is pleased to partner with Nickelodeon to amplify the importance of play on wellbeing and healthy brain development, and to make learning more effective and joyful for children and adults. As children’s museums, we believe in the power of play and we strive to nurture more play and playful learning to enrich the lives of children everywhere.”

The Association of Children’s Museums, an Our World coalition member, is partnering with Nickelodeon to bring Worldwide Day of Play activations to affiliates around the globe on September 30th, reaching more than 1.8 million kids and caregivers. Museums participating in Worldwide Day of Play have the opportunity to feature custom Nickelodeon activities that help highlight the importance and transformative power of active play.  Participating ACM locations will also feature a varied array of activities, including Mess Fest! at Sacramento Children’s Museum, Play Fair! at Children’s Museum Curacao, Toys and Games from Franklin’s Early Days at the Franklin Area Historical Society (OH), and Slime Time at the Schoolhouse Children’s Museum (FL). Families can check www.childrensmuseums.org/dayofplay/ for information on activities going on in their city, town or area.

In addition to partnering with ACM to host grassroots events globally, Nickelodeon will begin rolling out messaging encouraging kids and families to get up and get active this Worldwide Day of Play (Sept. 30) across its linear, social and digital platforms Thursday, Sept. 29. Kids and families can also visit www.childrensmuseums.org/dayofplay to get tips on ways to celebrate play and access toolkits to help plan their own WWDoP activities.  Additionally, Nickelodeon has teamed up with Our World partner Aspen Institute to create the “Worldwide Day of Play Playbook” that amplifies youth voices and demonstrates how play can be a powerful tool in skill building. 

Worldwide Day of Play is part of Nickelodeon’s global Our World initiative and is centered in the brand’s longstanding commitment to promoting active play and healthy lifestyles. Since its 2004 inception, thousands of WWDoP events have been held across the U.S., and in Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Mexico, Brazil, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, Germany, Italy, Russia and more. Additionally, more than $3 million in grants and scholarships have been awarded to national and local organizations to promote active play.

About Association of Children’s Museums (ACM)

ACM is the foremost professional society supporting children’s museums in developing rich environments that stimulate children’s natural playfulness, curiosity, and creativity. With more than 470 members in all 50 states and in 16 countries, ACM champions children’s museums and together enrich the lives of children worldwide. As a global leader, advocate, and resource for the field, ACM and our member organizations strive to build a better world for children and serve over 30 million visitors annually. Started in 1962, ACM recently marked its 60th year of impactful service to children, families, and children’s museums.”

About Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon, now in its 44th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The brand includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, digital, location-based experiences, publishing and feature films. For more information or artwork, visit www.nickpress.com. Nickelodeon is a part of Paramount’s (Nasdaq: PARA, PARAA) global portfolio of multimedia entertainment brands.

###

ACM Trends #6.3 Understanding Museums’ Collaboration Goals

Download ACM Trends #6.3

Data for this report was collected through a Spring 2023 ACM member survey on collaborations. The dataset contains information from 59 member institutions. Previous pandemic-era survey data on collaborations conducted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic supported instrument sevelopment. This research was supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services

Children’s museums are part of an ecosystem of community services designed to enrich children’s lives through the provision of informal learning experiences. That ecosystem functions best when the various institutions comprising it are working together, sharing their resources and capabilities to more effectively connect with and serve their audiences.

We saw evidence of this during the height of the pandemic. As reported in Trends Report #4.8, #4.10, and #4.11, children’s museums adapted to the constraints imposed by COVID-19 by forging partnerships with new collaborators and expanding existing collaborations. The public health crisis inspired children’s museums to join forces with an incredibly diverse array of community organizations, including formal educational institutions and health and social service providers. These collaborations led not only to new
programs, but also to broader conceptions of community service and fresh insights into how children’s museums can deliver on their mission.

This edition of the ACM Trends series provides an update on our pandemic-era research. As of Spring 2023, 95% of children’s museums have re-opened their doors, and to understand how this transition is impacting their collaborative work, we administered a survey focused explicitly on this topic. Fifty-nine ACM members completed this survey. Their responses indicate that the resumption of in-person activities has not diminished children’s museums’ eagerness for collaborating with partners across a wide range of service vectors. Moreover, just as was true at COVID-19’s peak, programs focused on health and wellbeing remain a core part of their collaborative efforts.

The survey also offered insights into the goals children’s museums are pursuing through collaboration. Though varying considerably, museums’ collaborative goals are connected to three broadly shared aims: (1) healing; (2) learning; (3) community. In what follows, we discuss how these findings can help children’s museums understand, approach, and evaluate collaborative work. Our hope is that sharing this information will not only stimulate dialogue around collaboration and partnership, but also help children’s museum leaders plan new collaborative programs and begin the process of building relationships with new partners.

Read the full ACM Trends #6.3 report >

Please Touch Museum Kindergarten Readiness Program Fosters Preparation for New Adventures in Learning

With the waning weeks of the summer of 2023, children continue to make the most of every moment at Please Touch Museum (PTM) in Philadelphia. This is especially true for rising kindergarteners, who are getting ready to pack their backpacks, find their cubbies, and meet new friends. And the 80 children and their caregivers who participated in PTM’s Kindergarten Readiness Experience this summer are well-prepared for new adventures in learning. The program was recently featured in The Inquirer, highlighting the importance of social and emotional skills in preparation for kindergarten.

PTM’s Kindergarten Readiness Experience is advancing how children prepare to transition to kindergarten, ensuring they enter the classroom on their first day full of creativity, compassion, confidence, and curiosity. Entering kindergarten is a milestone for young children and families. PTM remains committed to supporting the journey from home to school by building the critical social-emotional skills needed for a successful transition.

The Kindergarten Readiness Experience was also highlighted in the American Alliance of Museums’ recent reaccreditation report, which specifically cited the program as worthy of study by other museums. Together, these remarkable endorsements help celebrate yet another way in which PTM changes a child’s life as they discover the power of learning through play.

“There’s a lot of research to suggest that if a child is ready for kindergarten, they’re going to do better in the future academically and socially [and] emotionally.

It’s so important to intervene as early as possible with children and make sure they have all the skills they need to be successful in kindergarten so it sets their trajectory on a positive pathway.”

– Alyssa Liles-Amponsah, the senior director of community programs and inclusion at the Please Touch Museum via The Inquirer

ACM Information Brief on the Power of Play

Download Report

 

Play is a powerful experience that enriches people’s lives in museums, schools, homes, and beyond. In this latest ACM Informational Brief, The power of play in children’s museums and elsewhere, play is explained through the research-based benefits of play to children’s discovery, health and wellness, and agency, as well as through the crucial role children’s museums play in cultivating and providing access to play.

Although the benefits of play can occur in many different types of environments, children’s museums offer particularly valuable contexts for play.

Play is vital for children, young people, and adults as well. Children’s museums have vast experience in creating playful learning experiences that are age-appropriate, hands on, interactive, and joyful. Even beyond their walls, museums form partnerships and build capacity to encourage more playful learning experiences in schools, homes, parks, hospitals, airports, malls, and beyond. Children’s museums provide examples of the many ways parents, caregivers, and educators can use play to facilitate wellbeing, healthy brain development, and to make learning more effective and joyful for everyone. As children’s museums, we believe in the power of play and we strive to nurture more play and playful learning everywhere we go.

 


Paper commissioned by ACM | Written by KT Todd, Director of Learning and Research, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

ACM and ASTC Jointly Publish 2023 Workforce Survey Report

Purchase Report

For more information, the 2023 ACM-ASTC Workforce Survey Report can be retrieved via ACM or ASTC. A digital download of the report is available for purchase ($199 ACM or ASTC member/$499 non-member).

ACM members and nonmembers may download the association’s publications order form and send it to membership@acm.org.

ASTC members may purchase their report via myASTC.astc.org

The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) are pleased to announce the release of the 2023 ACM-ASTC Workforce Survey Report. This report presents findings from 138 participating institutions, 36% of which are active ACM member museums, and 81% of which are active ASTC member museums. ACM and ASTC worked together on previous efforts to capture this data and share with the community, most recently in 2016. 

The purpose of this joint data collection effort is to provide museum professionals and leadership with an understanding of important staffing trends in the museum world, as well as analysis that can help institutions understand how their own policies relate to institutions of similar size or type.

Key Findings

•   Full-time staff numbers are rebounding to their pre-pandemic levels, but part-time positions remain down by almost 15%, and volunteer numbers are lower as well.

•   65% of institutions report that they are currently hiring floor/frontline staff, far above the percentage that reported currently hiring for any other positions.

•   Full-time staff salaries are up by 15% since 2019 and approximately 6% in the past year.

•   Part-time hourly wages increased 23% since 2019 and approximately 7% in the past year.

•   Benefits that institutions offer staff have not changed dramatically since the 2016 workforce survey. Currently, more than 80% of institutions report contributing to employee health insurance.

•   Questions on remote work arrangements show that the majority of museum work is still being done primarily in-person. At the same time, many respondents said the demand for remote work flexibility is a major challenge in recruiting new staff.

•   11% of institutions reported have some unionized staff, but unionization is typically limited to only certain roles or departments.

•   Demographic information on staff is quite limited, raising questions for how institutions can measure their progress toward diversifying the field.

The 2023 ACM-ASTC Workforce Survey Report paints a picture of a field that is moving forward from the pandemic, but not without challenges. Compensation is rising and staff numbers are rebounding, but these trends are not consistent across all types of staff. Museums are looking for ways to attract and retain staff in a time when many workers are navigating career transitions, but they are also encountering obstacles as workers sometimes find more competitive pay, benefits, or work policies in other fields.

The full 2023 ACM-ASTC Workforce Survey Report provides a closer look at these numbers and issues, with breakouts by institution type, size, and location to help organizations understand where their own policies and practices lie in comparison to the larger field. A robust executive summary is available open access for free.

Let us walk you through it

Monday, July 17, 2023, 3:00 PM ET 

Please join ACM and ASTC for a free webinar—open to all—to learn more about the survey instrument and our findings. Attendees will hear from ACM’s Jennifer Rehkamp, Director of Field Services and Research, and ASTC’s Melissa Ballard, Director of Programs. 

Register via Zoom

Young V&A Showcases how Children’s Museums are Growing Quickly Across the Globe

With approximately 40 emerging museum ACM Members, we are thrilled to see more intentional and meaningful spaces for children’s museums coming together across the globe!

This week, ACM Executive Director Arthur Affleck represents the association at the Grand Opening of Young V&A in Bethnal Green, London. After seven intensive years of dedicated planning and design, the free, national museum will showcase the power of creativity in children’s lives as they build new skills and develop the creative confidence needed to thrive in our fast-changing world.

Photo: © David Parry/ V&A

Co-designed with children, Young V&A demonstrates what it means to be a children’s museum by serving as a local destination that encourages positive child development and adult/child interactions through naturalistic and child-centered learning.

Emerging museums are an important part of the children’s museum community. Representing those institutions that are not-yet-opened, emerging museums bring new vision, new perspectives, ideas, and talents.

In recent years, many of our emerging museums represent the international growth of children’s museums. We are pleased to have welcomed attendees from across the globe at our recent InterActivity 2023: Leveraging Our Voice conference in New Orleans. This included attendees from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Israel, Germany, Curaçao, China, and Poland, as well as the U.K.

“Children’s museums are the fastest growing sector of the museum community because there is an increased recognition of the power of the hands-on, interactive, and playful learning exhibits and experiences they provide…

We have found children’s museums and targeted programming serving as extension of the home and school environments. This ‘third space’ allows for stronger communities, safe spaces for growth and discovery, and a world of opportunity.”

– ACM Executive Director, Arthur G. Affleck, III via The Financial Times

ACM Trends #6.2 The ACM Data Hub: Understanding National Averages

Download ACM Trends #6.2

Data for this report was drawn from publicly available IRS Form 990s posted on Candid and the ProPublica nonprofit look-up tools. Supplemental data was collected through the Spring 2022 ACM member survey.

Since 2019, ACM and Knology have been working to create a data-based resource geared toward helping children’s museums learn about emerging trends across the field. The result of our efforts is the ACM Trends Data Hub—an online portal that visualizes trends in museum attendance, income, expenses, and staffing from 2016 to the present. Created with data from ACM member surveys and the publicly available US tax Form 990s that all US non-profits are required to complete every year, the Data Hub displays individual museum information that can be filtered by size, ACM member level, US region, and by city and state. As a management tool, the Data Hub allows children’s museums to monitor their performance across the aforementioned indicators, and to compare this to other institutions and sector-wide trends. Though at present the Data Hub only features US-based museums, the ACM Trends team will aim to incorporate data from museums outside the US in the future.

To facilitate the Data Hub’s use, this ACM Trends Report highlights one of its most important features: the use of median values to express sector-wide trends. Whenever highlighting sectoral averages in attendance, income, expenses, or staffing, the Data Hub uses median values. This is because medians are often preferrable to other ways of computing averages (like the statistical mean or mode) when it comes to museum data.

In this report, we explain why medians are so often the best way of identifying trends and tendencies for museums. Using examples from our research, we illustrate how museum data is often distorted by statistical outliers that make mean values less representative of the tendencies that most museums might see. This is the reason that medians offer a more accurate reflection of what a “typical” children’s museum should expect in their context.

By understanding what median values suggest, children’s museums will be better positioned to use the Data Hub to understand their financial positions, to support accountability to their funders based on industry norms in comparison to local conditions, and to assess performance compared to their peers.

Read the full ACM Trends #6.2 report >

ACM Information Brief on Mental Health

Download Report

Mental health is important.

Children’s museums have long been invested in creating environments where children thrive. Mental health is a pressing current issue for the children in our communities, and children’s museums have expansive opportunity to meet those needs with comprehensive, collaborative experiences that supplement the essential work of mental health professionals—providing all children with the skills to navigate their world with joy, wonder, and wellness.

ACM’s latest information brief The role of children’s museums in supporting children’s mental health, provides an overview of some primary research trends about children’s mental health and then shares insights about how children’s museums—community-serving organizations that reach millions of U.S. children each year—can bolster children’s mental health.


Paper commissioned by ACM | Written by KT Todd, Director of Learning and Research, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Empowering the Next Generation of Climate Innovators

Children’s museums are constantly responding to the current needs of the children and families in their communities, from health to academics to social issues, as seen in their exhibits, outreach, and programming. Children’s museums also fulfill their roles as responsive, audience-focused institutions by striving to reflect and address community needs through the experiences they create.

While ACM and the children’s museum community cannot eliminate all the threats to children’s health, safety and well-being, the organization is committed to using its playful learning approach, and its advocacy, programming, and community partnerships to address these problems proactively and with a sense of urgency.

Recently ACM’s Executive Director, Arthur G. Affleck III participated in a special roundtable discussion hosted by the National Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C. Joined by Ginger Zee, Chief Meteorologist and Managing Editor Climate Unit at ABC News, and Kim Noble, Senior Advisor for Environmental Education at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Arthur explore the topic of Climate Action Heroes: Empowering Future Climate InnovatorsThe full roundtable discussion can be viewed here.

Moderated by Crystal Bowyer, President & CEO of National Children’s Museum, central themes from the panel focused on climate and humanity, easing climate anxiety, partnerships, and the power of play.

Children, as the most vulnerable group affected by climate change, also hold the greatest potential as agents of change and resilience. To nurture the next generation of climate innovators, it is crucial to instill a love for nature and science through play-based, interactive learning, emphasizing hope rather than fear. It is the shared duty of public and private sectors to forge partnerships that promote awareness and inspire action in this endeavor.

Some key panel takeaways:

“This isn’t about science, it is not about statistics, it is not about how high the water level was… it’s about the humanity of the people … that’s what we can give children.  Not just the education and the information but where and how do I take action with whatever I have in front of us?”

Ginger Zee

“We can talk to children in a way that doesn’t come from a place of fear but a place of possibility. We can confront climate change and talk to our kids in a way that teaches them about creativity, innovation, resilience. We can teach them what it means to imagine a world with a planet with clean air, clean water, for everyone. That learning can come from a place of growth.”

Kim Noble

“The reason why play is so important is that you want the lesson to stick, you want children to want to know more about it. If you make it fun, if you make it interesting, if you make it interactive, and iterative, and joyful: they are likely to get the lesson. We use play-based approaches to teach about climate and so many other concepts.”

Arthur Affleck

Climate Action Heroes is part of the National Children’s Museum innovative educational programming. More information may be found at the NCM website.

Association of Children’s Museum welcomes five new board members and announces new roles for its governing board

Arlington, VA—The Association of Children’s Museum (ACM), the world’s foremost professional society supporting and advocating on behalf of children’s museums, and those who work at and otherwise sustain them, is pleased to name its 2023 Board of Directors. Voted as a slate by the association’s membership, ACM first announced the Board at its annual conference, InterActivity 2023: Leveraging Our Voice, hosted April 26–28 in New Orleans.

Newly joining the ACM Board as At-Large Members for three-year terms are:

Rongedzayi Fambasayi, Managing Director, Play Africa Johannesburg

Gretchen Kerr, Chief Operating Officer, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

Brindha Muniappan, PhD, Senior Director of the Museum Experience, Discovery Museum (Acton, MA)

Hilary Van Alsburg, Executive Director, Children’s Museum of Tucson

Stephen White, Esq., Chief Strategy Officer, Vice President of Partnerships and Business Development, Center of Science and Industry (COSI) (Columbus, OH)

Joe Cox, President & CEO at Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was named President Elect for the 2023–2024 term, and will serve as Board President for the 2024–2026 term.

New officers and committee chairs will join ACM President Joe Hastings of Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Past President Tanya Durand of Greentrike in Tacoma, Washington. They include:

• Vice President Crystal Bowyer, President & CEO, National Children’s Museum

• Secretary Putter Bert, President & CEO, KidsQuest Children’s Museum (Bellevue, WA)

• Treasurer and Finance Chair Felipe Peña III, Executive Director, Children’s Museum of Brownsville

• Governance & Nominating Chair Tifferney White, Chief Executive Officer, Louisiana Children’s Museum

• Strategic Initiatives Chair Dené Mosier, President & CEO, Kansas Children’s Discovery Cent

“The ACM Board of Directors represents the ACM membership as leaders in the children’s museum field,” said ACM Executive Director Arthur G. Affleck, III. “The governing body will oversee the association as we implement our newly shared five-year strategic plan. We are appreciative to this important group of volunteers whose willingness to share their expertise and enthusiasm with ACM will help us better serve children, their families, and the community.”

The plan has four inter-related priorities: elevating the children’s museum community; lifting up children and families; advancing the field through advocacy, policy, and research; and strengthening the organization. All the work in every priority will be evaluated through the two overarching lenses of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI), and environmental resiliency and regeneration.

More about the ACM Board leadership:

New Board President Elect:
Joe Cox has served as the President and CEO of the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, since February 2018. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Museum connects more than 450,000 visitors to inspiring science annually. He has worked in the museum field for more than 20 years having previously served as the President of the EcoTarium Museum of Science and Nature in Worcester, Massachusetts (2012–2018) and as Founding Executive Director of the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, Florida (2004–2012) where he led a campaign to raise more than $25million to build the Museum. Joe has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science from St. Mary’s University in London with a focus on environmental law and paleoquaternary biogeography and completed his Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester. Joe was the recipient of a Smithsonian Fellowship in Museum Practice based at the National Zoo and National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. He completed the Getty Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Joe is past Chair of the Florida Association of Museums Foundation.

New At-Large Board Members:

Rongedzayi Fambasayi is a children’s rights lawyer who since August 2022 has been Managing Director at Play Africa Children’s Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a passionate champion of children’s rights, the power of cities to support children’s rights, including the right to play. He is also an external expert on children and climate change with the African Union’s Children’s Committee. After attending the University of Zimbabwe for undergrad, Rongedzayi obtained his Master’s in Law and finalising a PhD Law and Development both from North-West University (Noordwes-Universiteit).

Gretchen Kerr became Chief Operating Officer of Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus in July 2010 after serving as the Vice President of Development. Leading all facets of museum operations, including the museum’s DEAI initiatives, and continuing to play a key role in organizational fundraising efforts, Gretchen helped lead the museum’s $16.1 million expansion campaign in 2015. Before joining the museum, she worked for the American Cancer Society and the American Red Cross. She is a member of the Association Alliance of Museum’s 2023 Executive Committee for their Annual Meeting, serves on the Advisory Committee for the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business Customer Service Program, is a graduate of Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation’s Leadership Denver. Gretchen graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S in Kinesiology. 

Brindha Muniappan’s passion for science communication led her from the research bench into the field of informal science education. Since joining Discovery Museum in 2019, she has helped expand the organization’s diversity, equity, access, and inclusion initiatives to connect with more underserved and marginalized children and is committed to sharing Discovery Museum’s efforts widely. Before joining the Discovery Museum, Brindha led the Education and Public Programs team at the MIT Museum and was part of the Current Science and Technology team at the Museum of Science, Boston. Brindha earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering and Ph.D. in biological engineering from MIT. 

Hilary Van Alsburg became the Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of Tucson and its satellite location inside a nature park after a varied career in law and the non-profit sector in Tucson—to include experience as an entrepreneur, school teacher, and time at the University of Arizona.

Stephen White, Esq. is the Chief Strategy Officer, and serves as In-House Counsel at the Center for Science and Industry (COSI), the number one science center in the nation by USA Today.  During his career, he founded the theory of Servant Learning as an engagement strategy to help bridge the “COVID Canyon” education gap with the philosophy to inspire others to dream more, do more, and become more.  In his role at COSI, he is oversees the development of optimizing the entrepreneurial business model for the organization, building new models of impactful education programming, creating and implementing a global strategy for public partnerships at the city, state, and federal levels, and leading the execution of COSI’s Strategic Plan. As a first generation student, Mr. White earned three degrees, all from The Ohio State University, including his B.A. in English and Political Science, J.D. from the OSU Moritz College of Law, and his M.A. in Public Policy and Management from the OSU John Glenn College of Public Affairs, and extended his learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the OSU Moritz College of Law covering nonprofit law and leadership, as well as several state and federal boards including as Co-Chair of the International Space Station Subcommittee on Education. 

A complete list of the ACM Board of Directors can be found on the ACM website.

###

ACM Announces New Strategic Plan

DEAI and environmental resilience and regeneration will guide new and ongoing goals and objectives for the leading children’s museum association

Arlington, Va.—The Association of Children’s Museum (ACM), the world’s foremost professional society supporting and advocating on behalf of children’s museums, and those who work at and otherwise sustain them, is pleased to announce its new five-year (2023-2028) strategic plan. Approved unanimously by the association’s board of directors, the plan was developed with a robust background review of ACM, informed by ACM community engagement, and guided by international arts and culture consulting firm, Lord Cultural Resources.

With the new plan comes revised mission and vision statements to better encapsulate ACM’s new strategic directions and to articulate the aspirational priorities, goals and objectives of the organization.

Mission: We champion children’s museums and together enrich the lives of children worldwide.

Vision: A world that prioritizes the rights of all children to playful learning and a healthy, safe, and equitable future.

“The importance of children’s museums for our communities cannot be understated,” emphasizes ACM Board President and Executive Director of Explora (Albuquerque, NM), Joe Hastings. “The ACM strategic plan creates a roadmap for implementation of new directions and priorities and for highlighting the impact of children’s museums worldwide. The intentional addition of a priority focused on supporting children and families is meant to emphasize ACM’s commitment to strengthening community.”

At its core, ACM’s strategic plan for its future has four inter-related priorities:

1 – Elevating the children’s museum community.
2 – Lifting up children and families.
3 – Advancing the field through advocacy, policy, and research.
4 – Strengthening the organization.

All the work in every priority will be evaluated through the two overarching lenses of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI), and environmental resiliency and regeneration.

“Revisiting and re-envisioning ACM’s strategic direction is integral to ensuring that our values align with the current and future needs of the field and our intention to do more to lift up children and families.” shares Arthur G, Affleck, III, Executive Director of ACM. “Now more than ever do children and families need quality and dependable places to experience hands-on, interactive, and playful learning experiences and exhibits to further their growth, development, and well-being. By sharing this strategic plan, ACM reaffirms our commitment to supporting the children’s museum field and the children and families that we support together.”

The association’s professional staff now turns to phase three of the plan: implementation, where ACM staff will further develop these priorities with actionable tasks. This includes strategic actions aimed to provide more resources, professional development, networking opportunities, and meaningful benefits to ACM members, as well as meaningful and intentional partnerships and collaborations—domestic and international.

ACM plans to share more about this important work at its annual conference InterActivity 2023: Leveraging Our Voice hosted by the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans, April 26-28.

###

Museum Virtual Programming after COVID-19: Collaborating on possibilities for virtual museum programming in a post-pandemic world.

This post originally was published by Knology. Access the article here: Museum Virtual Programming after COVID-19 – Knology

Children’s museums responded to the COVID-19 shutdowns of 2020 and 2021 by developing new forms of programming, delivered through virtual platforms. At the pandemic’s outset, the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) launched “Children’s Museums at Home,” a website providing families with links to virtual programs created by ACM member museums. Following up on this, individual children’s museums developed a number of other virtual strategies. They live-streamed, produced podcasts and YouTube videos, developed online games and contests, and distributed digital newsletters.

Initially, these different forms of virtual programming were envisioned as temporary adjustments—as necessary adaptations to a short-term crisis. Yet moving online taught children’s museums that the use of digital technologies and virtual spaces could have long-term benefits. In particular, they offered a way to reach new audiences—including those historically lacking access to children’s museums. With the resumption of in-person activities, many are asking what aspects of these virtual services should be retained. How much virtual programming do audiences want? How much potential is there for reaching new audiences with this programming? How might this be managed given children’s museums’ limited budgets? And how would these efforts relate to in-person programming?

In 2021, as more and more children’s museums migrated to online spaces, Knology and ACM began gathering data on all aspects of digital content creation. In addition to this, we held a workshop for children’s museum leadership to discuss the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of continued virtual programming in a post-COVID world. Concurrently, Rockman et. al. conducted survey research to learn about parents’ and caregivers’ experiences with and preferences for different types of virtual programming, and to determine how much demand for this there would be after children’s museums resumed in-person operations.

In 2022, the ACM Trends Reports team documented both the benefits and challenges associated with continued virtual programming efforts. These reports indicate that both children’s museum leaders and patrons want virtual programming to outlive the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge for leaders is now to make future investments that support community needs, and reach new audiences without adversely impacting children’s museums’ capacities.

To support the field, ACM, Knology’s Trends team, and Rockman et. al. received funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to pursue “Post-Pandemic Virtual Experiences with Children’s Museums: Responding to Family, Educator, and Museum’s Needs and Expectations.” We’re calling it the Museum’s Virtual Programming project, for short (MVP).

MVP aims to provide children’s museums with actionable data that can help them decide whether and how virtual programming might best meet the needs of the communities they serve. The project will also explore how ACM can create opportunities for asset sharing and development tools to optimize virtual programming for children’s museums of all sizes—along with their community partners.

This three-year project will assess the virtual programming assets and needs of the children’s museum community by working, first and foremost, with the ACM membership, and by speaking with families, parents, caregivers, and local educators across the country to help build recommendations that can align with the scale and operations of children’s museums of all sizes. In Fall 2022, our team will be developing baseline instruments and criteria for a cohort of ten ACM member museums who will work with their audiences and community partners to facilitate data collection. This data collection will begin in Spring 2023, and will be led by Rockman et al. Concurrent with this, ACM and Knology will begin diving deeper into ACM member museum’s virtual programming offerings.

As with all ACM, Knology, and Rockman et al initiatives, the team will center its work in principles of equity. Although the shift to online programming has not been as easy for those living in marginalized communities, that does not discount the value of online for all. Together, the team will consult with children’s museum member families, early childhood educators, and those who lack access to children’s museums or live in traditionally underserved communities.

Together, we believe that a collaborative approach can create a path to better meet the needs of those audiences who have historically not been able to access children’s museums, and to help all institutions within this field extend their reach and services.

 

To review the fifth volume of ACM Trends Reports, please click here.

Value Pricing and the Cultivation of Public Trust

This post was originally published as ACM Trends Report 6.1, the first report in the sixth volume of ACM Trends Reports, produced in partnership between ACM and Knology.

Members are the lifeblood of many children’s museums. They are loyal patrons who trust museums to provide playful learning opportunities for their children, often complementing trips to the zoo or aquarium. But when children “age out,” families may turn to other cultural institutions and start to reconsider the value of their membership. Understanding value seekers’ calculations can help children’s museums cultivate trust through transparency.

In this Trends report, we look at what membership pricing and attendance data can tell us about children’s museums. We focus on what museums might want to think about when attempting to stabilize their membership base, and on how to forge trusting relationships with prospective members.

National data related to membership pricing has been of particular interest to the ACM leadership community in recent years, especially as it relates to post-pandemic operations. Prompted by a specific request from an ACM member, this report contributes to these ongoing discussions. We used data from the Spring 2022 targeted ACM member survey and collected additional information from member museum websites. We developed a dataset from 90 children’s museums to see if there were differences in membership costs between small, medium, and large museums. We also compared admission prices across these categories and calculated a “pay less” point—that is, the number of times a family of four would need to visit in order to make the
purchase of an annual membership a cost-saving act.

Our analysis yielded two main findings. First, even though admission prices and membership costs are highest for large museums, the number of single visits needed by a family of four to “pay less” is lower for these museums than it is for their small and medium-sized counterparts. Second, we confirmed that admission prices and membership costs tend to rise in parallel, which means that even though base admission prices may be determined based on local cost of living concerns, ACM members can still compare their rates to other children’s museums, Taken together, these findings can help children’s museums determine how to align pricing decisions with the needs and interests of value-seeking visitors—that is, those who purchase memberships based on a calculation of savings.

ACM Trends #6.1

In Spring 2022, the ACM Trends Team circulated a survey to ACM member institutions requesting data on attendance, admission prices, membership costs, and other operations. After supplementing this data with information gleaned from member websites in August 2022, we assembled a dataset of 90 museums (30 of each size). We summarize the data in Table 1 below.

Admission Prices and Membership Costs

Table 1 compares admission and membership prices for a family of four at small, medium, and large museums. Admission prices are based on the general admission price for adults and children. When prices for adults and children were different, a family of four was calculated with two adults and two children.

We calculated these figures for a two-adult, two-child family on account of current US Census data (which shows that the average US family contains 3.13 people), and because this aligns with demographic research showing that a plurality of mothers in the US today report having two children (Pew Research Center, 2015).

The bottom row in Table 1 presents the average number of times a family of four would need to pay admission before achieving cost-savings through a membership purchase. The fourth column illustrates the mean cost across all size categories—which is an appropriate way to calculate averages in a dataset like this one, as it contains few outliers.

Clearly, the larger the museum, the higher the membership and admission costs for a family of four. Nevertheless, the number of visits needed for a valueseeker to “pay less” for multiple visits through a membership is lower (2.62) for large museums than for their small (3.88) and medium-sized (3.52) counterparts.

Figure 1 presents data from the bottom row of Table 1 as a “box and whiskers” plot. To create this, we “normalized” pricing data to show membership costs (for a family of four) as a multiple of admission costs for each children’s museum. The “box” part of the plot illustrates the middle half of the data (in other words, where 15 of the 30 museums in each size category sit), while the “whiskers” indicate those museums where prices are higher or lower than their peers.

When a museum stands alone compared to others, the box and whiskers plot expresses this with dots, considered outliers. When multiple museums lie in the same range, this is indicated by a line placed above the box. The line in the middle of the box illustrates the median, or the exact middle of all of the data in that category. We can see from those lines that medium-sized and small museums tend to be near one another. To see how many visits a family of four would need to make before generating savings through the purchase of a membership, look at the Y-axis, which plots the ratio of membership costs to visit price. This data can be used as a foundation for making decisions about membership pricing, especially in connection with data on premiums.

We also collected data on additional benefits provided with museum memberships—for example, discounts for rentals or birthday parties (n = 60), member-only events (n = 53), and reciprocal admission to other ACM (n = 24) or ASTC (n = 13) member institutions. Most museums offer these in some form; 8 out of 10 small museums, 9 out of 10 medium-sized museums, and all large museums indicated additional membership benefits. The total number of additional benefits did not appear to be related to a higher value of memberships.

One benefit, however, did have a significant effect on “trips to match cost.” Offering a discount on space rentals, after accounting for museum size, was related to higher membership costs. Though some have suggested that early access or discounts on summer camps are perceived as an incentive for families who can afford summer camp experiences, our analysis did not provide any evidence that the benefit is related to higher or lower membership prices.

Changes in Attendance and Membership Rates

We also looked at a subset of the data from fifty-one museums (1 small, 15 medium-sized, 20 large, and 3 yet to be classified) who responded to the Spring 2022 ACM member survey and provided information on annual attendance and member attendance from FY2016 to FY2021. Looking at the data, we can determine historical trends in museum attendance, and also calculate the proportion of overall attendance consisting of museum members.

Prior to the pandemic, in FY2016 through FY2019, the median number of memberships purchased per year for these museums was between 2200 and 3000. In FY2020 and FY2021, this value dropped to 968 & 1188 memberships purchased, respectively. Along with this decline, the proportion of overall visitors who were
museum members decreased roughly 6% in 2021 for these museums. While these museums are just a portion of the overall ACM field, the decline likely reflects the impact of the pandemic across the sector.

Key Takeaways

People purchase museum memberships for different reasons. These purchases provide a reason for frequent visits—which not only benefits children but can also help museum leaders advocate for children’s access to the healthy spaces of learning and discovery children’s museums provide. For some, a membership is a valueseeking purchase, one made through a consideration of future costs, benefits, and savings. Value-seekers become members because they want museum-going to be a regular part of their children’s lives. These pricing data tell us that museums anticipate four visits a year by their value-seeking members, setting prices that justify at least four or more visits in a membership year.

For others, purchasing a membership may not be driven by monetary concerns. They may simply want to invest in an institution that is doing good work, or to support a local institution that is good for children. Some individuals may purchase memberships to build social capital, because they want to support an organization whose values they identify with, and because they want their membership to reflect something about who they are. They may also become members because they want to encourage their grandchildren, nephews, nieces, or other relatives to visit them, or because they want to provide gifts to families with children. These “affinity members” may also care less about free admission than about membership perks, premiums, or about symbolic value—for example, discounts on birthdays or group tours, reciprocal admission at other ACM member museums or other cultural institutions, access to priority registration, exclusive programs, or behind-the-scenes content.

In other words, value is a complex, multidimensional thing. When thinking about those who see the primary value of a museum as its price, children’s museum leaders can also consider how decisions related to pricing might impact the perceived trustworthiness of their institutions. As ACM Trends #5.3 discussed, in order to cultivate public trust, museums need to demonstrate competence, reliability, sincerity, integrity, and benevolence. During the height of the pandemic, many museums demonstrated benevolence through refunds or by pro-rating existing memberships. At present, some museums are considering increased fees to recoup pandemic-related monetary losses. Doing so may risk the trust built through the pandemic, especially as cost-of-living increases may make more members value-seekers.

About this Research

Data for this report was collected through: (1) an online survey distributed by ACM in April 2022; (2) a review of ACM member institutions’ websites. This dataset contains information from 90 current ACM member museums.

Our analysis used the size categories developed in ACM Trends Reports #1.1 and #1.7. We use these categories because institutional size predicts a range of outcomes for children’s museums. We note that museums offer many types of reduced priced tickets or free admission, and some unique premiums that were not used in this analysis.

References

Voiklis, J. (2022). Key Concepts: Trust. ACM Trends 5(3). Livingston, G. (2015). “Childlessness Falls, Family Size Grows Among Highly Education Women.” Pew Research Center.

US Census Bureau (2021). America’s Families and Living Arrangements. Retrieved from: [https://www.statista.com/statistics/183657/average-sizeof-
a-family-in-the-us/]

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Associations of Children’s Museums (ACM) champions children’s museums worldwide. Follow ACM on TwitterFacebook, and InstagramKnology produces practical social science for a better world. Follow Knology on Twitter.

Museums for All Initiative Reaches 1,000 Participating Museums

Collaborative museum access program has served more than five million visitors

ARLINGTON, VA (November 3, 2022) – The Association of Children’s Museum (ACM) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) are pleased to announce that the Museums for All initiative has reached a milestone of 1,000 participating museums. An initiative IMLS, a federal agency based in Washington, DC, and administered by ACM, Museums for All is a national, branded access program that encourages individuals of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong learning experiences and museum going habits.

Through Museums for All, those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) can gain free or reduced admission to now more than 1,000 museums representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, simply by presenting their SNAP EBT (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefit Transfer) card. Since the launch of the initiative in 2014, more than five million visitors have utilized the program benefits.

“The experience of visiting a museum leaves a lasting impact especially on young people,” reflects Arthur Affleck, III, Executive Director for ACM. “At ACM, we are proud to serve children and their families by connecting them with enriching experiences. That is why we are particularly proud of our work connecting museums of all types to underserved communities through Museums for All. Participating museums report that the initiative has improved their institutions for the better, making them more inclusive and accessible.”

With a year-round open-door policy, Museums for All invites visitors facing economic challenges to feel welcome at cultural institutions. It is open to participation by any type of museum — including art, history, natural history/anthropology, and general museums, children’s museums, science centers, planetariums, nature centers, historic houses/sites, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and arboretums.

“Museums for All is the remarkable success story of creating an affordable and welcoming program for all American families to enter the world of imagination, fun, and knowledge represented by America’s extraordinary museum world,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “The 1,000 members represent millions of American children and their parents.”

Museums for All is the only nationally coordinated financial accessibility program in the museum field, providing an easy-to-implement structure and the ability for participating museums to customize their implementation. Find a participating museum near you or browse our full list of participating museums.

###

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Association of Children’s Museums (ACM)
The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) champions children’s museums worldwide. With nearly 500 members in 50 states and 19 countries, ACM leverages the collective knowledge of children’s museums through convening, sharing, and dissemination. Learn more at www.childrensmuseums.org.