Quad Cities museums have certainly come a long way in the last few years.|
The soon-to-be developed Children's Garden at the Quad City Botanical Center, the new Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, the Figge Art Museum, the Family Museum, the expansion and addition of the National Geographic Giant Screen Theatre at the Putnam, the German American Heritage Center, new exhibits at the Hauberg Indian Museum at Black Hawk State Historic Site and the expansion of the elephant enclosure at Niabi Zoo ready to be enjoyed on opening day Monday, March 11, are just a few improvements of our museums.
Roger Ruthhart's Sunday column, "Time to Lift Q-C museums from obscurity," certainly challenges our museums and the community to advance to a higher level through partnership.
Des Moines has its Bravo arts collaboration and Chicago has its "Museums in the Park" where about a dozen museums come together for joint marketing. We can get there too given four considerations:
-- Embrace the diversity. Quad Cities arts and cultural organizations are a diverse group. Some are small volunteer groups with hardly any budget and others are large, professionally managed not-for-profits. So a key to future thinking is to develop a path that will benefit all.
-- Embrace the fact that great partnerships take time. Collaboration is relatively new for arts and culture and successful partnerships take time.
The Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau was formed in 1990 and the Quad Cities Sports Commission in 1996. The arts/culture/heritage collaboration called Experience Quad Cities just got started in 2009 but is off to a quick start with regional awareness developed by the inaugural East West Riverfest last September. (Mark your calendars as East West Riverfest expand to three weeks, Sept. 16-22, 2013.)
Quad-Citiesy museum directors are reviving their every-so-often meetings to discuss how to partner, collaborate and improve the guest experience.
-- Embrace our museums as a package of four or five two- or three-hour
visits instead of long, single-day excursions typical of the museums in larger, metropolitan areas. Kim Findlay, president/CEO of the Putnam Museum, shared with me what a family said when she met them at the museum.
"Where are you from," she asked. "Chicago," the family replied. "You must go to the large museums in Chicago a lot," Kim responded. "No, we don't," the family said. "We come to the Putnam three or four times a year because the exhibits are always interesting, the admission fees are reasonable and we don't have to pay $30 to park our car for the day." Check out TripAdvisor and you will see Niabi Zoo highly rated because it is a small zoo. "Perfect for the family with toddlers and youngsters," one listing reads. "Plenty of animals to see and things to do but does not take so much time that a visit wears out the little ones and makes them cranky.
-- Embrace the relationship the arts, culture and heritage has with economic development. Our museums likely create many of the first impressions of our areas when guests visit. A thriving arts community bodes well for our economy, our workforce development and our quality of life.
So make plans to visit as many of the 37 museums identified in Mr. Ruthhart's column as you can.
You will learn, you will have fun and you will help grow the region not just for today but for the future.
Joe Taylor is president and CEO of Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.