On March 4, 2020, the Utica Children’s Museum announced that we would be closing at the end of the month to create a new, state-of-the-art Museum and relocating to the Parkway in Utica. This will be a first-of-its-kind Family Resource Center that will house ICAN family-based programs, community space AND the new Children’s Museum.
About ten days later, COVID hit and like so many others, we closed our doors.
Our work, however, did not miss a beat.
As with any major, groundbreaking project of this magnitude, the team we assembled to assist us through each step needed to be the best in the business. Well before the announcement, we had sought out and engaged with Hands On! Studio – an internationally-renowned design firm out of Florida that has created modern spaces and experiences for children’s museums around the world. We also began work with Barbara Leggett who led Explore & More Children’s Museum in Buffalo for 25 years and successfully launched their $29 million transformation and oversaw the initial development of their new space at Canalside on the Buffalo waterfront. The architectural piece of the project is in the capable and creative hands of Albany-based CSArch – an architecture, engineering, and construction management firm that has experience with museum design and collaborative mixed use spaces. Each partner has been to Utica for multiple site visits to begin their respective work and then transitioned to virtual sessions with our local team from March 2020 to date.
Since fall 2020, the museum team has also been working closely with the IDEA Center at SUNY Buffalo School of Architecture who is helping us plan the first museum in the nation to focus on both building and exhibit design that is fully inclusive. ICAN/Utica Children’s Museum was awarded a nearly $200,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in August 2020 to assist the museum with this effort. We will be the first museum to be designed through a trauma-informed lens using universal design concepts to serve children who are on the autism spectrum, have experienced trauma or live in poverty.
Museum planning and schematic design is underway with the guidance of Hands On! The new museum will feature all new exhibits, content and experiences in spaces that are fully immersive. Exhibits and programming will highlight special aspects of Central New York and focus on “loving where we live.” This deliberate planning to make the new space reflective of our community
includes strategic community input.
Our new Museum Director, Donna Migliaccio, took the helm in November, 2019. She has been working closely with all partners on large scale strategy and planning, but has also undertaken the herculean task cleaning out the former museum building. Based on guidance from experts in the museum field, this process has included extensive research and collections management. Hundreds of items have been returned to their original owners and donors. Items that belonged in other museums have been transferred, with many local and state agencies gaining objects that more rightfully belong in their collections. Donna has worked diligently with experts at the New York State Museum, The Rome Historical Society, The Oneida County History Center and the Oneida Nation along with community leaders and others to ensure that select items from our museum are where they fit best and where they can continue to be displayed or shared for many years to come.
Following best practices in the museum field, items that will not be rehomed at our new museum will be auctioned by Auctions International.
Still active in the community
With the museum closed and with the world in a pandemic, in-person events or activities of any kind were impossible, so the team increased social media, email and blog activity, sharing fun downloadables, inspiration, activities and hope. We held a New Year’s Eve Memory Box fundraiser in December giving families a “party in a box” to ring in 2021 safely at home. Our recent diverse array of February Break activities welcomed close to 500 sign ups and we are in the midst of planning virtual activities for Spring Break in April.
When the museum is confident in the safety of our children and community in returning to events and school programming, we will be launching our Mobile Museum and looking forward to having a physical presence in the public while our work at the new museum continues.
We look forward to informing the community monthly about all of the important components of the project as we move forward towards our goal of opening our new children’s museum in 2023.
Members of the community can stay up-to-date with the museum by signing up for email updates on www.uticaCM.org or by following us on social media.
About Utica Children’s Museum
The Utica Children’s Museum will be relocating to the Parkway District of Utica on the corner of Holland Avenue and Memorial Parkway and will be creating an entirely new experience for families in the Mohawk Valley. The new museum is part of a larger project of ICAN – the development of a first-of-its-kind Family Resource Center that will house ICAN family-based programs, space open to the community AND the Museum. With over 50 years of history, the Utica Children’s Museum is one of the oldest children’s museums in the country.
Integrated Community Alternatives Network, or ICAN, is a unique home and community-based network that provides individualized and non-traditional services and care to those with the highest risk to help restore social, emotional, and behavioral health and well-being to keep families together. Using the Wraparound philosophy towards treatment, ICAN staff, along with their extensive Independent Practice Association (IPA) network, currently provide support to over 1,500 individuals and families each day – prenatally through end of life – through 20 programs in over six counties in their homes, at schools and in the community.