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Story 09: Beyond Museum Walls

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At the Wharf

Written by Dorothy Merrill

Prior to the move to the Wharf, community programs were focused on neighborhoods near the museum. In the new location, programs now took place in the communities and at The Children's Museum including expanded Community Nights and monthly culture-specific celebrations.

After moving to the Wharf, the museum continued and expanded its work outside its walls. Teacher services included Saturday Seminars (an easier time for teachers to come downtown), Kit Rental and RECYCLE. Under Pat's direction, with Suzanne LeBlanc and Leslie Swartz as co-managers, the new Community Outreach Program formalized and expanded services to Boston neighborhoods and cities in Metro Boston, providing family nights and group visits, workshops and teaching materials. One example, the Teen Work Program, founded earlier by LeBlanc, gave older children from neighborhoods near the museum an opportunity to work and grow up at the museum. This was life changing for many adolescents—from troubled kids placed at the museum to fulfill court-ordered service to the board members' kids looking for productive ways to use their time. In the mid '80s, under the leadership of manager Joanne Jones-Rizzi, community programs took on an even larger multicultural focus. Jones-Rizzi helped bring local teens into the workforce, forged new relationships with inner city groups and brought greater cultural and economic diversity to the museum's board. In-depth programs and multi-session courses led by developers, especially Bernie Zubrowski and Diane Willow, continued to be essential to the museum and remained a fundraising focus.

During the '80s the museum continued its collaborations with CEC (Cultural Education Collaborative) and the Boston Public Schools, and added new ones with MITS (Museum Institute for Teaching Science.) Program emphasis was now heavily focused on science and included preschool science activities and science with a cultural twist such as Girls Clubs' programs and the AAAS Black Church project. Most of these programs were funded by grants, and the museum welcomed the opportunity to retool and often combine museum programs for new and diverse audiences.

The 1987 hiring of Ken Brecher to replace Mike Spock as director (Mike had accepted a new position at The Field Museum in Chicago) reaffirmed the museum's cultural priorities. With the support of staff, Brecher brought new perspectives to every part of the museum with a more diversified board, diversity training for staff, and increased funding for multicultural exhibits, collections and kits.

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