Reflecting on One Year of the Pandemic for Children’s Museums and the Communities They Serve

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Association of Children’s Museums’ “Museums Mobilize” Initiative Highlights Efforts from Past Year

As the world looks to reopening, it’s clear the pandemic will have consequences on museum operations for years to come. ACM’s Museums Mobilize initiative highlights the need to invest in children’s museums as community responders.

By March 19, 2020, all children’s museums in the U.S. had closed their doors to the public in response to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomorrow, March 19, commemorates one year of transformation within the children’s museum field, with museums creating new programs to support their communities and fill critical needs all while facing unprecedented operational crisis. Through its Museums Mobilize initiative, the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) is documenting these programs in service to children and families, and this effort currently counts 167 programs from 78 children’s museums in 34 states and four countries.

“Currently, 61% percent of children’s museums around the world are open to public visitation—a percentage that is currently at its highest point over the past year,” said ACM Executive Director Laura Huerta Migus. “As educational innovators, advocates for childhood, and community anchors, children’s museums have always offered more than the physical visit alone. The past year has put this fact into stark relief as we continue to serve our communities.”

Immediately following their initial physical closures in March 2020, children’s museums began pivoting to serve their communities in new ways, and more than 70 percent of ACM’s museum membership was offering virtual programming by June 2020. In addition, children’s museums have pursued other innovative strategies such as partnerships with schools and activity kits to help close the digital divide. At the same time, the pandemic has had a major effect on children’s museum operations, resulting in lost revenue and reductions in staffing. In summer 2020, 75 percent of children’s museums reported only 28% of the attendance they received during the same period in 2019. A survey from the American Alliance of Museums found that individual museums lost on average $850,000 as a result of the pandemic.

In an upcoming webinar on April 6 at 2:00 p.m. ET, ACM will highlight specific children’s museum efforts to offer support to parents and caregivers. Leaders from Louisiana Children’s Museum, Pretend City Children’s Museum, and DuPage Children’s Museum will engage in a fireside chat with their community partners on projects from expert parenting webinars to text message programs. Register here.

As the world looks to reopening, it’s clear the pandemic will have consequences on museum operations for years to come. ACM’s Museums Mobilize initiative highlights the need to invest in children’s museums as community responders. Learn more about the efforts of children’s museums worldwide with the hashtag #MuseumsMobilize and by viewing the Museums Mobilize dashboard with key stats at ChildrensMuseums.org/Museums-Mobilize.

About Association of Children’s Museums (ACM)
The Association of Children's Museums (ACM) champions children's museums worldwide. With more than 460 members in 50 states and 19 countries, ACM leverages the collective knowledge of children's museums through convening, sharing, and dissemination. Learn more at http://www.ChildrensMuseums.org.

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Alison Howard
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