What in the World is Going on with the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire?!
“How are we going to survive?” was the first question many children’s museums faced in March of 2020. The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire (CMEC) was forced to developed new, innovative strategies that allowed families to interact with us in safe ways while protecting employees and fighting for institutional survival while being closed to the public.
CMEC team members became quite creative with ways to get PLAY out into the community. A popular option was by implementing Busy Boxes: a box of activities, toys, science experiments, and more made available for purchase by CMEC and mailed to our members and visitors.
Social media and technology were also a vital way to spread PLAY to families. Virtual programming, contests and giveaways, and different activities and craft videos were posted on our social media accounts daily.
CMEC made efforts to reopen in July 2020, but after a month of operations, the organization experienced significant losses amounting to $37,000. It quickly had to pivot and close again to ensure long term financial stability.
After almost a year of being a “virtual” museum, the conditions seemed right for a cautious reopening, but even that was going to look a little different. CMEC finalized the sale of its now former location at 220 S. Barstow Street on January 31, 2021. Proceeds from the sale are allocated towards the building of their new museum, slated to be finished by Fall 2022. So, what now? How do you open when you don’t have a museum to open in?
CMEC’s team members had to think outside the box yet again, thus the creation of Play Space, A Children’s Museum Pop-Up Experience. This new temporary space would allow guests to take advantage of safe play and programming by signing up for two-hour play sessions, Monday through Saturday.
Originally, CMEC considered several options for continuing to maintain a presence and serve the community with Play Space. We were approached by Visit Eau Claire about a partnership in the Visit Eau Claire Experience Center at Pablo Center. However, the availability for hours of operation did not align with the impact we wanted to make with our families. We were grateful to Visit Eau Claire and the Pablo Center for their efforts to help us and continue to partner with both organizations on other projects.
We then became aware of the opportunity to use empty space in the Haymarket Landing building and opened the temporary location at 40 S. Barstow Street. This location provided more flexibility with hours of operation and, although a much smaller space, would still offer many of the Children’s Museum’s favorite exhibits such as the Rocket Climber, Imagination Playground Blue Blocks, and elements from Toddler Park. The temporary space also boasts daily STEAM related programming and the option to rent the space on Saturdays for private rentals such as birthday parties.
Guests can sign-up to play on our website, childrensmuseumec.com, and also find more information regarding our updated COVID-19 policies and procedures, pictures and details about Play Space, and updates on the progress of the brand-new Children’s Museum of Eau Claire.