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Dear Friend of the Museums,
The end of summer and the start of the school year is an important transition in many families' lives. The anticipation, preparation, and settling in to new yet familiar patterns can be both exciting and stressful for all involved. But once the routines are in place, we can look forward to enjoying the adventures of new grades, new activities, new experiences.
Summer is our busiest time of year at the Museums, and this year was no exception: more than 51,500 people visited us this summer. Our summer was filled with many great programs both indoors and out. Once again we welcomed families for Free Friday Night Fun every Friday of the summer, and more than 8,000 had their fun with us and enjoyed free admission. Capping off the summer was an entire day and evening of free admission. Thanks to the Highland Street Foundation, more than 2,400 people enjoyed a spectacular day at The Discovery Museums on August 31. Overall, attendance at the Museums is up 7% percent over 2011, the third year in a row where we've enjoyed growth in visitation.
Everyone likes positive feedback, and we are no exception. The sense that we are doing something right was reinforced by a number of nice recognitions we've received over the past few months. The Discovery Museums were voted a 2012 Family Favorite by Boston Parents Paper readers in their annual Best of the Best awards. We also received two 2012 Wicked Local Readers Choice awards: Silver for Museums, and Bronze for Place for Family Entertainment. We are thrilled and very much appreciate these reader-voted recognitions.
The success of the last several years has made the celebration of our 30th Anniversary even sweeter. Recent articles in The Boston Globe, The MetroWest Daily News and The Beacon helped us tell the story of our first 30 years. But as the Globe story indicates, we are just getting started. We have developed a plan to create a strong platform for the next 30 years, and are beginning to tell people about it and raise the necessary funding for it. This is a very exciting time and I am looking forward to sharing our plans with you in the coming months.
An essential reason to expand and improve is so that we can be even more accessible to every kid. One of our most important efforts in past years, which I have highlighted in earlier CEO Updates, is our Especially for Me program for underserved audiences. This award-winning project provides special access to the museums for families with children on the autism spectrum and families with children with hearing loss. We are pleased to announce that through a grant from The English Family Fund, a fund of the Foundation for MetroWest, core funding for the autism-related programming of Especially for Me is secured for the next three years. With this support in place, our goal is to seek additional funding from others to double the program size over the next three years. I would love to hear from anyone who might be interested in supporting the growth of Especially for Me.
Our experience working with families with children with autism spectrum disorder has helped us to help others looking to support this underserved group. This summer, an interview with Amy Spencer, our Director of Early Childhood Education & Parent Resources, was published in the book, Everyone's Universe: A Guide to Accessible Astronomy Places (second edition). The book explores ways to provide universal access to educational science programs, and Amy's interview provides her insight into how museums can best support the educational and customer service needs of families with children on the autism spectrum.
The end of August marked the end of the first year of our Playing Together! program, a collaboration between The Discovery Museums and Acre Family Child Care to develop science programs and training for immigrant childcare providers in Lowell. Over the past twelve months, we were able to deliver 25 programs and events including professional development workshops, field trips and family nights at the museums, science enrichment programs, training and museum fairs. More than 800 family child care providers, assistants, parents, children, and museum staff participated in these events. In addition, a lending library of 10 science kits was created and curricula developed in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Vietnamese. A Khmer translation is being developed in video format.
Even as we plan for our future, we continue our year-long celebration of the steadfast support we have received from our community over the past 30 years. This fall we are recognizing that support with admission prices set as they were 1982, the year of our founding. We are expecting many will enjoy visiting the Museums for the retro price of $2.00 through our Pay and Play Like It's 1982 promotion, running September 22 through 28. In October we'll celebrate fall with our 3rd annual Pumpkin Fest on October 27 & 28. And on November 10 the host of WBUR's Here & Now, Robin Young, will help us celebrate with a fun-filled gala here at the museum. We would love to see you that event.
This note marks my third year at The Discovery Museums. I am very thankful for all the support shown us during the last three years and look forward to many more.
Neil H. Gordon
Chief Executive Officer