As the Arizona Museum for Youth nears its 35th anniversary, its staff is preparing to rebrand a place often known as AMY while developing traveling exhibits that would give it a national presence.
The downtown Mesa museum is in the early stages of repositioning itself to broaden its appeal and to make it easier for tourists to understand its mission, said Sunnee O’Rork, AMY’s executive director.
“We do a lot of surveys and try to understand what our public thinks of us, and we’ve had a lot of people be confused who are visiting from out of town,” O’Rork said.
The museum has a grant from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust to research how it can broaden its appeal. The museum is surveying patrons and potential visitors as it looks to draw more than the 65,000 to 70,000 patrons who visit every year. Some minor programming changes will come along with the name change, but O’Rork said the museum will continue to feature the interactive exhibits that are so popular.
“I know that art, creativity and imagination will be part of it,” she said. “It’s not like we’re all of a sudden becoming something else.”
A new name could be in place by the museum’s 35th anniversary next year.
At the same time, the museum is looking to develop exhibits that would travel the nation. As part of that, O’Rork has traveled to 18 museums across the country to learn how the traveling exhibit business works.
That would require extra funding for developing exhibits, transportation costs and extra staffing. Yet it would generate revenue for AMY. The museum is still researching funding sources such as grants.
The museum has an annual budget of less than $2 million. O’Rork estimates each traveling exhibit would cost $50,000 to $200,000 to develop.
Some of the expense effort would focus on ensuring the exhibits can survive going on the road, said curator Jeffory Morris.
“We would want it to be able to travel for four or five years and be able to handle being crated and uncrated, and be used by hundreds of thousands of people,” Morris said.
AMY decided to develop exhibits for travel after visitors from other museums expressed interest in various exhibits created for the Mesa facility, Morris said.
The museum typically creates three exhibits a year while hosting several traveling exhibits.
The staff is already considering reworking some of the museum’s more popular exhibits, with a focus on displays that allow visitors to be creative and make things. Intergenerational learning is also important.
“We are a youth museum but we really do get a high level of adult engagement,” Morris said. “Sometimes we get more excitement from the adults than from the children.”
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