Museum plans for life without Discovery World

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

    The Milwaukee Public Museum is interested in acquiring the 40,000 to 50,000 square feet of space occupied by Discovery World, according to Michael Stafford, president and chief executive officer of the museum.
    Discovery World owns the space it occupies, which is adjacent to the museum. However, Discovery World will be vacating that space when it moves to the Pier Wisconsin site in 2005. (See story on page 11.)
    The museum still must receive approval from its board of directors to acquire the Discovery World space, Stafford said. In addition, plans for using the space must be approved by the board.
    Museum officials are working on a concept for using much of the Discovery World space for an educational center. Museum staff could present educational programs in the center to school classes or other groups with the aid of specimens and other objects from the museum’s collections and multi-media presentations.
    "If we acquire the space, we would envision making it a center for museum programs for school groups, teachers and lifetime learners," Stafford said. "It would be an environment designed to help them learn in a way their school district can’t create."
    The Discovery World area also could provide more exhibit space and much-needed office space, Stafford said.
    The museum is landlocked and has few other options for expansion, Stafford said.
    Stafford said the museum, which also owns the IMAX theater, has worked well with Discovery World creating a synergy to attract more visitors.
    "We’ve enjoyed our partnership," Stafford said. "I’m a bit sad to see them go. But if they are going to move, the opportunity is there to acquire more space. Space is something we legitimately need. I think we’ve coveted that space for some time."
    The museum is one of the top five natural history museums in the United States in terms of attendance and budget, Stafford said. Last year, attendance was about 1.1 million. Additional space could enable the museum to attract more visitors, he said.
    "The public museum has very big plans to become a player in the museum world," Stafford said. "We draw locally and somewhat regionally. I’d like to see us draw nationally."
    The Milwaukee Public Museum and other cultural institutions in the city, such as the Milwaukee Art Museum and Pier Wisconsin, should form an alliance and work together to attract visitors to the city, Stafford said.
    The former director of the Cranbrook Institute of Science near Detroit, Stafford says Milwaukee’s arts and cultural institutions are of similar quality to those in southeastern Michigan.
    "There’s no reason we can’t go head-to-head with Chicago as far as arts and culture," Stafford said. "There’s no reason we can’t go head-to-head with Minneapolis.
    "But we’re not going to do it as stand-alone institutions. If we’re really going to draw tourism to Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, we’ve really got to band together," Stafford said. "We’re just exploding with opportunities to draw cultural and arts tourism. Per capita, we have some of the highest-quality cultural and arts institutions in the Midwest."
    April 16, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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