Cincinnati Museum Center is no stranger to closures. Over the last several years, the beloved Cincinnati institution closed many of its museums as part of a massive restoration project. But this spring, CMC entered unchartered territory, closing March 14 in an effort to keep everyone safe.
During this closure, CMC moved its programs online, through their Wonder Zone videos, at-home science experiments, “Off the Shelf” curator blog series and more. But the reality is, CMC was losing $1.5M+ each month in operating revenue alone. And as an independent nonprofit, CMC faces an uncertain future. Cincinnati Parent spoke with Cody Hefner, CMC’s director of communications, about how the museum plans to move forward.
It’s been a tumultuous last few months. How are you holding up?
For us, being in the museum and being surrounded by guests is energizing. It’s a constant reminder of why we do what we do. Being away from the building and interacting with guests digitally has proven to be an emotional change — but we remain energized and are constantly encouraged by the engagement we continue to have and the feedback we’ve received. We’ve had to rewire ourselves a little bit to do so, but we’re realizing we can have an even broader impact digitally.
What are you doing to keep CMC up and running during this time?
We’ve shifted a lot of our programming, expertise and talents online. Our curators have become much more visible and vocal, sharing insight into their collections and their research in a way they previously haven’t been able to with such a wide audience. Our education staff has also had the opportunity to show a little more of their personality and ingenuity through online videos that have either tested their technology skills or shown just how tech-savvy they are. We really looked at what we have available in our homes or in our digital collections and encouraged our staff to guide us: What would you want to see during this time? What can you execute with what you have on hand? No idea has been off the table and we’re tapping into our staff’s passion and talents at this time.
What are some of the ways you’re staying connected with the community/helping the community during this time?
We’ve taken as many programs as possible online so we can continue to nurture curious and growing minds and encourage lifelong learning. That means we’re all pulling together to offer virtual and online programs for kids and adults of all ages. We have a lot of resources online right now, in addition to daily programming through our social media channels. For example, on Mondays we offer a virtual STEM Girls video to inspire young girls to pursue an education and career in STEM fields; Wednesdays we’ve taken our Story Tree Time online as we read a different story every week; and on Fridays we have our dance parties online. And throughout the week, we’ve been sharing lesson plans, at-home science experiments, opportunities to get outside and explore nature and more. Plus, we’ve partnered with the YMCA, Cincinnati Art Museum, Public Library and more on virtual programs, book clubs, art challenges and more.
Right now, everything still feels very uncertain. What are you hoping for the future? How can Cincinnati parents help?
We know the museum we closed will not be the one we reopen. Cleaning protocols will dictate how we reopen, and we’re working with government and health officials, as well as community organizations and leaders, to determine the best time and way to reopen. But we will reopen. And we will continue to provide an educational and engaging museum experience that kids and adults alike will talk about for years to come. We’d love to know what parents are expecting to see when we reopen: what will make them feel safe and comfortable? What programs have you seen online that you want us to bring to the museum floor in real life? Or what programs have you seen elsewhere that you’d like us to try our hand at? Our community has such a role in helping us shape our museum.