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Dear Friend of the Museums,
After a successful 2010, The Discovery Museums have had what I hope you will think is a great first half of 2011. Attendance through July is up 20% over 2010, which was up 13% over 2009 and attendance so far this year is ahead of that figure. The combination of great programs and more effective marketing seems to be encouraging visitation. Our new visitor satisfaction survey is tracking how well we are doing and our visitors rate us 9.3 out of 10 on "Would you recommend us to a friend?" Something is working as we have also added 600 members in the past year.
Speaking of crowds, on July 15 The Discovery Museums participated in Free Fun Fridays!, a region-wide free museum day sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation. We opened early and stayed open late to accommodate the more than 4500 kids and adults who visited. Many photos of the day are posted on our Facebook page so take a look at all the happy (often painted!) faces online at www.facebook.com/discoverymuseums.
We also opened our doors for free every Friday night this summer, as part of our Free Friday Night Fun! program, presented by Middlesex Savings Bank. Families don't often have the opportunity to enjoy museums at night, and free admission is a wonderful benefit. The program was met with great enthusiasm: we had between 400 and 700 people each Friday night. Free Friday Night Fun! was such a success that we have decided to continue it in the fall, offering one free Friday night per month for the remainder of the year.
"Free" is a big theme for us this year, as we have set an aggressive goal to expand our successful Open Door Connections (ODC) program, enabling 5,000 more kids to experience the Museums this year for free or deeply reduced cost (last year we were able to support about 25,000). Financial, cultural and developmental factors can create challenges that deter many families from taking their children to museums; we are committed to reducing those barriers. Our 2011 Annual Fund is focused on raising money to support our efforts to bring more underserved families to the Museums. Check out how we are doing at www.discoverymuseums.org/opendoorconnections.
Part of our Open Door Connections efforts are focused on intensive programs that expand to other places the type of hands-on learning that occurs at the Museums. Through our work with Acre Family Child Care (AFCC) in Lowell, staff from the Museums have been training family daycare providers to bring these learning techniques to low-income families in Lowell. We are very pleased to announce that we recently received a highly-competitive national grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) of $134,000 to support our efforts for the next two years! With this grant, we will expand our partnership with Acre Family Child Care to better engage under-represented local immigrant communities. Playing Together: Using Museum Fun to Better Engage Immigrant Communities will offer a seasonal calendar of events that will more than double the number of programs available to AFCC's providers and families. The project will also produce four science-themed workshop curricula designed for family daycare providers; a lending library of 18 science-themed kits with curricula translated in to Khmer, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Portuguese; and a model for a community preschool science fair. This project will increase the role of curiosity, science, and play in the lives of young children in Lowell.
This spring we completed a wonderful cultural exchange program between students in Acton, MA and Ilobasco, El Salvador. We partnered with the Tin Marin Children's Museum in San Salvador to facilitate the year-long program, Sharing Biodiversity and Culture. Students in each country learned about each other and shared information about their countries and cultures through letters, drawings, and Skype and WebEx communication. The program culminated with a large-scale mosaic project completed by the children and installed at each school, guided by community artist Laura Smith. The program was funded in part by a grant from the Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad (MCCA) program, which is funded through a partnership with the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the US Department of State.
On the governance side of things, we are pleased to announce the newest member of our Board of Directors. Patty Chisholm, Vice President and Regional Branch Manager of Middlesex Savings Bank, has joined the Board. Patty brings a wealth of experience serving on boards and many years of experience in the community. We are thrilled to have Patty and Middlesex on our Board.
We have had a great summer and would love to see you soon. Let me know if you will be visiting the Museums, or would like to drop by and see our plans for the future.
Neil H. Gordon
Chief Executive Officer