“May you live in interesting times!” keeps coming to mind during this coronavirus pandemic. This certainly is an interesting time for museums and other cultural jewels. To help ensure the safety of staff and its visitors, the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota (CMSM) made a hard—but necessary—decision to temporarily close its doors before the direction came from the state of federal government. We have been monitoring the situation since, as well as studying what other museums are doing to restore operations, all in order to be as prepared as we can be when a safer time comes.
When will the Museum Reopen?
Today, the Board of Directors declared a reopen date, tentatively set for October 1, 2020. This plan may change in response to any new developments or recommendations. As the safety of Museum staff and visitors is our top priority, we are committed to ensuring a safe environment for all when we reopen.
What About Museum Memberships?
We understand that the global pandemic, and the closure of the Museum it has caused, has impacted our current members, as well as those who may have considered a Museum membership at some point. As we get closer to the Museum’s reopen date, we will be in touch with our members to offer an extension of their membership for the duration of the closure. Alternatively, Museum members will be able to choose to honor their existing expiration date as a way to support CMSM.
New & Modified Exhibits
On a much more upbeat note, we are so excited about our several new exhibits we can’t wait to share with you all! A brand new Energy: Powered by Play exhibit is waiting for children to enjoy, as well as a revamped Cecil’s Imagineering Loft. Construction is also underway in the Dotson Back 40, which will house a new nature-based play exhibit. Children will relish playing in a mud kitchen that includes a multitude of pots, pans, cooking utensils and, of course, dirt, sand, pinecones, acorns, and more! The new Outlast Shed will be full of outdoor blocks, planks, and troughs that allow little hands to practice science, language, and social skills. Additionally, a new outdoor Toddler Tunnel, with its flexible and movable units, will be sure to keep up with the constantly-expanding motor skills of our youngest visitors.
What about Safety?
The CMSM remains true to its mission to ignite the natural curiosity of every child in a dynamic, awe-inspiring environment, while protecting the safety of our visitors and staff. Knowing how challenging it may be to have two and three-year-olds keep a social distance, we are working on introducing many additional steps to improve your safety. Museum staff has been busy exploring, testing, and implementing a variety of new measures that will ensure children and families can safely enjoy the Museum experience.
When the Museum reopens, amongst other things, you may see:
- a modified check-in process
- reduced visitor numbers
- additional cleaning measures, on top of our already rigorous sanitation standards.
Stay tuned for more information about our new safety initiatives in the coming weeks.
Supporting our Community
Even though our building has been closed to the public, CMSM has leveraged our knowledge as play experts to provide families with fun activities to do at home. If you have not yet done so, be sure to check out our CMSM at Home page, which includes daily play prompts you can do with your children right at home! These activities are modeled after Museum programming and developed by Museum educators. Don’t forget to share your photos and videos over in the CMSMatHome Facebook group, too.
Just recently, we launched the Prairie’s Edge Exploration Backpacks pilot program. Thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, we have created exploration backpacks filled with everything your child needs to get outdoors and explore nature. Families can check out a backpack for one week, through the end of May, at no cost (a small refundable deposit is required). You can read more about these fun backpacks in this blog post.
The Museum appreciates the amazing support of many families, friends, partner organizations, and donors. During the weeks CMSM has been closed, support has come from throughout the United States. A donor from California shared that the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is “the best children’s museum in the country!” Others have expressed their desire to come visit again as soon as possible. Our founders are resolute in the future of the Museum and give us hope.
One of them noted: “I couldn’t be more proud of the job you, staff, and the board are doing to make CMSM such an important, family-centered facility for children and caregivers to count on here in Southern Minnesota,” while another founder reached out to “commend the staff on the online presence with activities for children, as keeping a connection to the community will become a vital part in becoming ready to reopen when it is safe to do so.”
Thank you, everyone, for your trust and support. With all of us pulling together, this regional jewel will once again sparkle for all to enjoy. I think we will be more than ready for that day when it comes!
Louise Dickmeyer, CEO