There are some interesting things popping up around town that appear to be part of a new exhibition opening at the Saint Louis Science Center in a few weeks. According the the Saint Louis Science Center web site the exhibition opens May 3rd and features animatronic monsters – many from popular movies. Read the rest of this entry »
The closing of the Toledo COSI due to budget shortfalls last month after the public voted down financial support should raise a red flag for many science centers around the United States. Are science centers relevant? Do they need to change? How should they change?
Establishing Relevance Again in the Community
Looking at the top 20 Science Centers and Museums around the US not one mission is identical, but all are basically the same – advance the public interest/education in science and technology. The challenge most science centers face stems from a lack of audience appreciation and relevance.
Having helped design and consulted with Science Centers/Museums of Science, most still operate trying to communicate information on their terms with little regard to what is happening in the non-science world. Is it interesting to see a model of a space vehicle or a moch-up of a control panel when I can go home and interact, almost completely immersed in a virtual environment on my X-box?
Most Science Centers need to step back and do four things. (1) Understand and define the audience. Who can the institution most successfully reach and what is the expected impact? (2) Determine what is relevant to the lives of that audience (3) Define the science strengths in the institution and around the institution. (4) Develop a narrative and experience that connects from a point of audience relevance to the science issue that is a strength. Just like the department store – the days of selling everything to everyone no longer works in a world of specialization and the Internet.
Ironically – The very science and technology that these institutions promote is reducing the effectiveness of the institutions. But it could also be the greatest point to re-establish their relevance.
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In interesting post and discussion today about the closing of the COSI Toledo Science Center. Not-for-profits often struggle to adjust to a constant changing landscape because historically they have ignored many market forces that force the business world to evolve.
Many Science Centers that are prospering have done so through balancing revenue generation and revenue creation. Taking some of the best practices from business is more than brand strategy, but includes leveraging technology, driving operations efficiencies, strong customer relationship programs – basically operating with purpose and accountability.
The Saint Louis Science Center is a good example of a well run science center that is adapting many best practices from the for profit world. They hired a fill time VP of Business a few years back from the for profit world to lead this effort and the SLSC now has one of the highest ratios of attendance per dollar spent according to 2006 ASTC data.
Below is a portion of the post from Pail Orselli on the Exhibitricksblog.
In case you hadn’t heard, COSI Toledo closed down permanently on December 31, 2007, after 10 years of operation.I think its a little sad and scary that one of the early “brand(ed) names” of the science center business, COSI, has taken such a drubbing in both its greatly expanded Columbus location, as well as in its now defunct Toledo satellite.
Unfortunately, the news of museum closings, like COSI Toledo’s, begs several important questions: 1) Are the traditional business models of museum operation truly sustainable? 2) Is the public really willing to support museums directly (through admissions, contributions, etc.) and/or indirectly through taxes, millages, etc.? 3) Should the IRS that grants 501 (c) 3 non-profit status for museums insist on more realistic business plans? All tough questions, which I don’t claim to have the definitive answers to, but I am interested in starting a dialogue. So, what do you think?
A new section offering information about the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago was added today to the Science Center Review. Starting with basic information the section will expand over time to become a leading resource for information about the the Museum of Science and Industry.
Over time the Science Center Review will expand to offer a comprehensive list of information and services about science centers around the United States and support their missions of expanding the understanding and awareness of science.
Science Center Review started posting information about the leading Science Centers in the United States starting with the Saint Louis Science Center.
The Saint Louis Science Center, one of the top five science centers in the United States (attendance) is arguably one of the most effective in the country due to its ratio of community impact and attendance to relative size and budget.
Additional information and opinions can be posted on the Science Center Review web site.
The Saint Louis Science Center is currently exhibiting Body Worlds 3 and has broken previous attendenace milestones set by the exhibit.
About the Saint Louis Science Center
The Saint Louis Science Center is one of the top five science centers in the United States, serving 1.2 million visitors annually. Recently named one of America?s most visited museums by Forbes Traveler, the Saint Louis Science Center complex includes a four-story OMNIMAX® Theater, the air-supported Montgomery Bank EXPLORADOME®, the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, and the state-of-the-art Taylor Community Science Resource Center. The goals of the Saint Louis Science Center are to educate, inspire and motivate visitors of all ages and engage the community in public dialogue about science-related issues of the day. For more information about the Saint Louis Science Center and its programs, visit slsc.org
The Science Center Review is a blog site organized to facilitate discussion and increase awareness of Science Center programs, exhibits and efforts to impact their respective communities.
Questions being considered by the Science Center Review?
What role should Science Centers play in advancing the public understanding of Science?
How do we (the public) measure the success of our Science Centers?
How do Science Centers create meaningful connections with their audience(s)?
How should Science Centers prioritize their efforts?
How can Science Centers work more collaboratively?