Monday, September 26, 2011

Support Local Museums Before They Disappear

I was heartbroken to read in the Detroit Free Press on Saturday that the Detroit Science Center was closing temporarily  to evaluate the museum's financial operations.  The goal of the two-week closure is to review the financial operations to plan for long-term viability.  A Science Center spokesperson said they hope to reopen but can't "make that promise."  Sheesh.  No Detroit Science Center?  Say it ain't so.

Our family has been Detroit Science Center members for several years.  Our membership allows us to experience incredible hands-on exhibits explaining how rockets work or teaching us how much effort it takes to burn the calories equivalent to eating a cheese burger and fries by propelling a wheelchair or walking on a treadmill.  The boys have played bass guitar and drums as they rocked out to Ike and Tina Turner and learned about engineering accomplishments on the Mini Mac Bridge, an 80-foot-long pedestrian bridge modeled after the Mackinac Bridge. The list of exhibits goes on and on and on.  Every trip uncovered something new.

It didn't matter how many times we watched the DTE Energy Sparks Theater shows explaining how electricity affects the world, we were mesmerized every time someone's hair stood on end from too much static electricity.  We learned about coral reefs and Mount Everest in the Chrysler IMAX Dome Theater and about an Olympic kayaker who designed and built the world’s largest man-made whitewater rafting park in the Toyota Engineering multi-media 4-D Theater.  The Kids Town area kept us entertained with a diner where the boys pretended to be cooks or waiters, serving food and counting money.  We always took part in the art activity of the day where crayons, paint, tissue paper, glue, sparkles and other items were available for the boys to create whatever artwork their hearts desired.  We never left Kids Town without a trip to the water table or a quick costume change for the boys to dance on stage.

The best part about our Detroit Science Center membership was the reciprocity agreement with other science centers in Michigan and across the country.  We took advantage more than once of 1/2 price admission to the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills and the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum in Ann Arbor and free admission to the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor and the Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing.  We even took the whole family to the South Florida Science Center for free when we were visiting the grandparents.  Our Detroit Science Center membership has served us well in our never-ending quest to find fun, imaginative things to do as a family.

I hope the Detroit Science Center can figure out a way to stay open.  The problem is they rely on ticket sales and memberships among other individual donations to stay open which means people have to use the service they are providing.  People have to go to the science center and support its mission to "inspire visitors to pursue and support careers in engineering, technology and science."   One woman quoted in the Free Press said, "I heard good things about it," along with "It's a shame if they close because we need places like that in Detroit."

It sounds like she never took advantage of the incredible resource right in her own backyard. And that is a shame.

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