After 10 years at its current location, and nearly 30 years in operation, the Wyoming Children’s Museum and Nature Center is closing its doors.
“It is very sad,” Laramie’s Director of Parks and Recreation Paul Harrison said.
The museum has been having trouble funding operations since the economic crash in 2008 and has notified the city that it will terminate its lease for its location at 968 N. Ninth within 30 days, Harrison said.
The city originally leased the building to the museum in 2000 for a dollar a day. The lease was for a five-year term but was renewed for another 10-year period.
“The museum has been in existence, I believe, since the mid-1980s,” Harrison said. “It bounced around from place to place trying to find a home, and when parks and recreation moved out of the Fort Sanders building in 1999, it really gave them a permanent home and an existence in the park.”
The museum closed its doors in late June.
“In June, they had one employee working part-time, and they financially just couldn’t afford to keep that person on the payroll. They had to let that person go and close the doors,” Harrison said.
The number of grants and foundation dollars the museum had been receiving for general operations dried up significantly in 2008 and 2009, he said.
The Children’s Museum itself and the programs it offered had always been very successful, but money to cover the cost of operating and maintenance, including utilities, building insurance and property insurance were a critical piece that “went away and has not come back … at a level” that could sustain the museum, he said.
Because the museum is a not-for-profit entity, the museum’s board is looking to donate its exhibits.
“They have talked to other children’s museums around the state,” Harrison said. “I believe they are talking to the children’s museum in Jackson … they have talked to some school districts about donating, because they are a not-for-profit organization. All of the exhibits that have been acquired and built with foundation dollars need to go to another non-profit.”
After the exhibits are given away, the board will dissolve the not-for-profit corporation with the state.
“It is just very sad,” Harrison said. “It would be fantastic if we had an anonymous donor come to the rescue … (the board has) looked at a lot of different grants and have not come up with anything.”
The city will look at trying to repurpose the building and use it for a similar endeavor, Harrison said.
“Some of the exhibits will probably remain, and we will work with the board members to try and find a good home for them, or to repurpose it, and re-evolve something a little different,” Harrison said. “We think (the museum) was a great fit for the building, we still do. We still think the classes that they were providing for the community, including the pottery classes for the youth and adults, were very valuable and beneficial. We’d like to see that continue, but once they give us notice — which they have — of 30 days termination of the lease, we have to act on that. And then we’ll regroup, and hopefully come up from the ashes and try something different with them or with a combination of groups.”