The old Butterfly Museum had been around for two decades but in spite of the additions of many more kid-focused activities, visitors had been dwindling for years – there were so many other things to see in the city like bigger zoos with grander activities and cotton candy. With a bit of city funding the museum managed a minor interior update, some fresh paint and added a play area inside. But, what it really needed was a plan to bring in new faces and that would require some creative new thinking and outreach.
We were brought in to assess the situation and create a plan to overhaul current processes. My first step was to visit the museum as an outsider and see for myself. I took along a niece to get the whole kid-experience.
As a complete outsider you can see things from a difference perspective. The museum had been build with a focus on children without much thought to the adult experience. Parents were standing idly by while the children had the run of various activities not designed for adult participation. I saw mostly bored parents standing and leaning on walls without even a place to sit to watch.
This mission was clear. How could we keep parents or the “adults in tow” coming back if they were bored? We needed to create a place that was as enjoyable for adults as it was for the kids. We put together a presentation for the Board and within weeks, got started.
Since structural (location, adding physical features was limited by budget), we started with creating Pavilion Ambassadors whose primary job was to seek out parents and interact and show them what they could do and where they could sit and watch. A simple thing like providing seating, a vending machine, free WiFi, and cell phone chargers at each seat, was a strong start. We also expanded activities so they were adult-friendly (short and tall door openings and stronger supports), and also created a variety of games for both adults and the children. Later, we added early evening adult events with free kid-sitting in a glass enclosed room. The adults could have snacks and wine while the kids did … well, whatever they do …
That was just the beginning. We put together a new social media outreach program and an event program once a month where both parents and children could become involved in things like butterfly theater, night hikes, camp nights, animal tracking, educational events, geo-caching days, and more.
We started an email marketing campaign series, designed new graphic materials, maps and newsletters.
The take-away: Institutions that have been around awhile and those with low funding often need a creative eye to seek out and implement an updated plan that suits a new generation of children and their modern adults.