Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem and SciWorks to Merge
The boards of directors of the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem and SciWorks announced that the two organizations will merge effective July 1, 2016, with the possibility of eventually combining museum operations into a single, larger building in downtown Winston-Salem that would transform the visitor experience.
The merger unites two fiscally sound organizations with complementary missions, engaged boards, and strong fundraising track records. By combining resources, the new organization has the opportunity to reduce costs, offer better visitor access, expand educational programming and better pursue a combined mission: “Inspiring wonder, curiosity, and lifelong learning in our children and community through interactive play and discovery.”
“SciWorks, founded more than 50 years ago in Reynolda Village as the Nature Science Center, has been a popular attraction for multiple generations of visitors and currently attracts almost 100,000 visitors each year,” said SciWorks Executive Director Paul Kortenaar. “Similarly, the Children’s Museum has served a generation of families well since it opened more than a decade ago. However, the SciWorks building is in a somewhat inconvenient location for much of the city and will require a substantial investment for repairs and improvements, and the Children’s Museum is in need of more space. Together, our two museums are prepared to serve a new generation from a site that is centrally located and easily accessible.”
“The new organization will expand on both museums’ commitment to developing exhibits and programs that provide authentic educational experiences grounded in research-based pedagogy,” said Children’s Museum Executive Director Elizabeth Dampier. “The combined museum will remain focused on our key themes of literacy and science but would offer much greater programming.”
A possible new museum in downtown Winston-Salem could become a major destination that can compete with similar museums in Charlotte, Greensboro and other cities. “This is an incredibly exciting time for Paul, me and our museum staffs, and we are excited by the energy that is being generated by the merger,” Dampier said.
Dampier and Kortenaar acknowledged the tremendous community effort that the Junior League of Winston-Salem spearheaded to found both the Children’s Museum and SciWorks. “We thank the members of the Junior League who worked tirelessly on these projects,” Dampier said. “The combined entity will be firmly grounded in the original missions for each museum, and will move into the future prepared to better foster thinking and creativity in the generations to come.”
The new organization will realize a model with the potential to emerge as a national leader in multiple ways. First, it will combine the best features of the Children’s Museum and SciWorks, fusing arts, literacy, and STEM orientations into an integrated approach to learning. Second, it will challenge the existing perception that audiences “outgrow” children’s museums and science centers. By designing a museum to serve an audience ranging from pre-K through teen, and by engaging families and community members in new ways, the merged organization will work to establish itself as one of this community’s “hub” centers.
The Children’s Museum and SciWorks began talks of a possible collaboration in early 2015. The merger of operations will occur July 1 with the museums continuing to operate from their present locations. “A unified organization, capitalizing on budgetary efficiencies can provide high-quality experiential education on a greater scale than two separate entities,” Kortenaar said. “By providing increased opportunities to develop early learning skills, the merged organization is in the best possible position to activate the imaginations, literacy and critical thinking of youngsters and their families.”