Sue Jacklin Visits the Pittsburgh children's museum
Sue Jacklin is Business Development Manager at Derby Museums, responsible for fundraising, marketing and supporting commercial income generation. She led the consortium bid with
Nottingham Museums to become an Arts Council England Major Partner Museum, securing over £2.5m, and co-ordinated the successful first round pass to secure £9.4m from Heritage Lottery Fund to develop Derby Silk Mill – Museum of Making.
Sue started her career in direct marketing and has been a grants assessor for The Big Lottery Fund, Coalfields Regeneration Trust and Children in Need. Prior to joining Derby Museums in 2013 Sue worked for Derby City Partnership in External Funding and Community Regeneration.
Sue’s visit to Pittsburgh, PA, focused on the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh as a great story of resilience and leadership in a city that is transforming itself. Sue met with Jane Werner, the Museum’s Director, who has successfully led the Museum’s transformation over the last 15 years during which time it has quadrupled in size, increased visitor numbers from under 100k to over 270k per annum and raised over $38m - all set against a backdrop of recession. Some of the key learning points from the Children’s Museum success are that it:
Has a clear mission
Expressed in plain language and embraced by all involved the mission is to inspire joy, creativity and curiosity, in a place where you can play with real stuff. That means real materials and real tools and real equipment.
Is locally relevant
The Children’s Museum worked with the local community to fund and create a new urban park in a neglected area on their door step and raised over $2.6 m to re-develop a local theatre- New Haslett Theatre. They have created a campus for children and families with other child-centred organisations based in the Museum.
They are continually looking outside the museum for new knowledge and perspectives and create lots of projects and commissions for artists including the Tough Art project that creates outstanding art that needs to survive children within the Museum.
Proactively invests in new ideas
They have created a new investment fund for new ideas returning $7 for every $1 invested. This has been used to establish a small team to develop, make and sell highly commercial exhibitions– for example the Eric Carle Hungry Caterpillar exhibition, booked on tour for years in advance.
Makes ideas happen
Makeshop was started with an initial investment of $5k to create a place for thinking and making - this really resonates with us in Derby as we develop our Museum of Making. The Children’s Museum delivers public and school education programmes sustained with crowdsourced funding like Kickstarter.
Invests in people not stuff
They ensure that they have the right people and empower them with a culture of saying ‘Yes’ to new ideas and to new ways of working. They attract committed people from different backgrounds and sectors and there is a real pride in working with the Children’s Museum and that radiates and influences wider networks
By taking action and making things happen quickly, taking risks and experimenting, they can be flexible and adapt to change. Although things don’t always work out, building a reputation for delivery provides a reserve of goodwill that can allow for failure.
Builds good relationships
Jane Werner has been the Museum Director for over 15 years. She believes in developing and nurturing relationships, from the local person that comes through the door right to The White House. The donor wall in the Museum Entrance demonstrates the depth and breadth of these relationships.
Provides what people need
Jane said that the art piece ‘More Light’, displayed at the heart of the museum, sums up resilience for her. It is made of simple materials, (clips, wire and tape) and is experienced by people in different ways; babies are mesmerised by it, couples have got married under it. Museums need to do this too – find ways of providing what people need and become relevant and resilient as a result.