As we celebrate the Museum’s 110th year, we are proud to highlight our longstanding commitment to being a welcoming and inclusive institution. By creating exhibits and programs that tell the stories of different cultures and people, aiming to foster understanding of our differences and similarities, the Museum has encouraged millions of visitors to develop empathy for others.
When Boston Children’s Museum was founded in 1913, museums were primarily devoted to caring for their collections. The teachers who founded the Museum instead sought to use its collection to engage children in learning about natural history and science. This focus, from acquiring and maintaining collections to building skills and knowledge, became central to the museum’s operations.
But it was not until 1962, when Michael Spock became director of Boston Children’s Museum and famously removed the do not touch signs from display cases and revolutionized exhibitions by making them more dynamic, interactive, and process-based, that the Museum became more visitor centric. Children and parents tested new exhibits to make sure they were effective and fun. Talk Back Boards offered opportunities for parents and caregivers to share their impressions of the spaces and activities. This new paradigm made exhibitions more experiential and accessible to a much wider group of people of varying ages and abilities.
This approach to our visitors and the community was inherently empathetic, seeking to understand who the Museum served and how best to do it, and created a culture that ultimately envisioned new relationships between the Museum and the community, working to blur the lines between inside and outside the Museum walls.
Today, the Museum has a deep connection and partnership with the business community, government, schools, neighborhood groups, and non-profit health, education and child development organizations that amplifies its vibrant presence in Boston. This expansive connection to the community reflects the Museum’s history and culture as an open and effective collaborator.
In 2023, the Museum’s work continues to emphasize accessibility and inclusiveness. Programs such as the $1 Sunday afternoon and an EBT discount provide opportunities to visit at a significant reduction in admission cost. The Museum Morningstar Access program, highlighted in the report, provides children with special or medical needs special times to enjoy the Museum. The Museum is working with Horizons for Homeless Children to improve the lives of young homeless children by providing high quality early education, opportunities for play, and family support services. In addition, the Museum has created an Equity Planning Tool to guide the development of exhibits and programs, considering the implications for equity. The ongoing Construction Zone exhibit redesign is the focal point for initial testing of this work. During the year the Museum opened its newest exhibit, You, Me, We, also highlighted in this report. You, Me, We addresses an urgent need in our society for self-reflection to disrupt bias and build empathy for one another.
The Museum also received a $300,000 grant from the Yawkey Foundation to provide programs and activities that strengthen and scale the Museum’s commitment to community outreach and engagement. The strategic grant will enable the Museum to create and deepen relationships with parents and caregivers, neighborhoods, and communities—especially among Greater Boston’s Gateway Cities—by providing greater access and belonging for children to discover, learn, play, and wonder about the world around them.
Finally, the Museum’s ambitious Waterfront Initiative continues to move forward. During the year Museum leadership met with our city, state and federal elected officials to gain support for the Initiative. We are now exploring permitting and funding to bring our vision for a resilient and vibrant waterfront to all.
Thank you for your ongoing generosity that has made this work possible. We look forward to continuing working with you in service of children, families, and communities in Boston and beyond for many more years to come!
Carole Charnow David Healy