Children’s Museum closes

The Wyoming Children’s Museum and Nature Center has closed. Andy Carpenean/Boomerang photographer

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.”

(17) comments

anonymous

I'm very sad to see this happen to such a wonderful place for kids to go and learn.

anonymous

Another glaring example of how Laramie does not care about the kids in this community. Maybe that money spent downtown on that "green space" which will only be used four months out of the year would have been better spent providing stimulation for the kids. tsk tsk.

anonymous

This is a terrible lose to our community. This has been a wonderful place for young children to learn for too many years to lose. It is also too bad that the community is just learning about this. If we can help keep the museum running someone should let us know how,

anonymous

Interestingly organizations have been known to do themselves in through their own decisions and actions, not just through lack of community support for children. Perhaps something better will arise to take it's place, in the best interest of children. That's a goal that deserves community support.

anonymous

Cleta Booth started the museum and put a great deal of love and effort into it. This is so sad and a great loss to the community. If collections are distributed, I hope it goes to a non-profit with the knowledge of preservation and museum collections with a curator who understands the importance to Wyoming.

anonymous

I certainly believe that the future for our children can be served better with more of a family type of participation. I believe that home is a valuable resource and that some of these so called "community" types of influences are not the best for the child. It has a place but children really do deserve the family setting for all of this type of learning.

anonymous

I am very sad but not surprised. The new board did nothing to save the museum. Hopefully someone who cares about the children of Laramie will try to reopen the museum.

anonymous

Sad but not surprised. The City should really have stepped in and done more to maintain this museum. There are so few resources for children and families in Laramie, that we are forced to leave town to get any type of education and stimulation outside of the home. When we moved here I was excited to see the facility, but after visiting a few times was just disappointed and saddened by the disappearing exhibits and frankly how un-hygenic the place was. Without city support a place like this cannot improve.

anonymous

@local mom- It is quite appalling the stunts this city pulls. For this to be a college town, they really only care about the "kids" paying tuition at U.W. As far as the children of the professors and students they couldn't care less. Look at the mess with the U.W. Geological Museum. It is a disgrace how forgotten non-tuition paying kids are treated in Laramie.

anonymous

I was very fotunate the Children's museum was available when my daughter was very young. I thought it was awonderful place full of great experiences for her. Learning about science and nature in a fun interactive setting. I cannot save the museum single handidly, but if someone donates + they reopen, I'll send them a check every month. Laramie's children are worth it!

anonymous

I'm sad to see this happen-but like everyone else not surprised. I guess I'll be taking my daughter to other towns for different experiences. I didn't have much to do here as a child and now my daughter has less than that.

anonymous

Society isn't into the benefit of children or the community. Right now they are focusing on what they can gain from places like the University and how much they can sell a UW Cowboy ticket for. It's not about the people who live here and plan to stay here, it's about where they can make profits--why put money into something that isn't "making" anything? That's how The City is thinking.

anonymous

If "The City" DOES step in to fill a need, people complain that they are over-riding their authority, or spending too much money. "An Ice Arena and Rec Center and Day Care? Pishaw!! They spend our money wrong!" If "The City" doesn't step in to fill a need, they hate children and families. They can't win for losing! Here's an idea...in addition to the 5th and 6th penny, why not encourage a 7th and maybe even 8th, so "The Evil City" has some money to spend on things that will keep you complainers here?

anonymous

I would like to see a state income tax instituted so we can have enrichment programs for everyone, children and the elderly. Also, it would be nice to maintain the infrastructure and recruit businesses so U.W. graduates aren't forced to look outside the state for employment.

anonymous

The success or failure of a non-proit is a result of the director and the board. They obviously had no clue how to succesfully fundraise. Other non-profits in Laramie have been very successful. They have been getting free rent from the city for years and they still are broke. Tax dollars shouldn't go to non-profits.

anonymous

The new board is the failure of the museum. The City was informed of the bad practices of the new board and they did nothing. The Museum didn't have to close. Three years ago the museum was great. I know they had a years operating budget in the bank and memberships were up. The new Board turned down LRCD grants and didn't apply for new grants.

anonymous

Disappointed, but not surprised as the new board was horrible at communicating with the community and funding sources, and destroyed all the wonderful old exhibits. Self-interest doesn't do much for the children in our community. Hopefully, some creative, child-friendly organization will move in.

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