Children’s museums greet thousands of guests each year, and they use a variety of admissions policies and procedures to keep the crowds moving smoothly through their doors. The 10,000-square-foot Amelia Park Children’s Museum in Westfield, Mass., welcomes more than 35,000 guests per year. The museum is currently running 11 interactive exhibits that highlight themes such as space, Main Street, animals, music and theater. “We do not have online admission or ticket sales,” said Karen Rubin, executive director of the museum. “We haven’t had a need for that just yet, but I can see us adding that as our museum grows.”
At present, the visitors walk through the admissions gate and into the museum. If any want to leave and then return, a staff member stamps their hands so they can return without paying admission again. Amelia Park Children’s Museum does not have food services as of yet, so many parents and visitors take advantage of the hand-stamp system so they can go to local eateries and get lunch or a snack and then return to enjoy more exhibits.
“The good thing about our return policy is that it encourages our visitors to patronize other local businesses while they are there visiting us. We all look out for each other in that way,” Rubin noted. “Many of our guests come from an hour away or more to see our exhibits. They come from not only Massachusetts and Vermont, but we are close to Albany, N.Y., too and we get many visitors making the trip from there, and they want to spend the day so we make it easy to do that.”
Along with its marketing to families, the museum also sends out letters and emails that target daycare centers, pre-schools and grammar schools. Large groups can reserve their visiting day online.
“When they reserve the date of their group visit, they give us a head count and we know then who to expect on that day. We do not print out tickets as we try to be as green as possible in every aspect of the museum,” explained Rubin. “We do give parents who are having their children’s birthday party here a free online invitation that they can distribute or email to their party guests.”
As Senior Manager of Visitor Services and as Box Office and Finance Specialist, Colleen Donnelly and Katie Irving oversee the admissions policy for the Boston Children’s Museum in Massachusetts. The museum, which houses 18 exhibits, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013. Founded by members of the Boston’s Teachers’ School of Science and the Women’s Education Association with the support of other local museums, the original goal of the museum was to provide educational and cultural opportunities for low-income and immigrant children.
“Ninety-nine years later, the museum greets more than 500,000 visitors each year and we use cutting edge research in cognitive science and educational theory to devise innovative opportunities for play,” explained Colleen Donnelly. “We serve children ages 0-10 and the adults in their lives, which include parents, grandparents, teachers and any other caregivers. In recent years, we have increased our focus on the best way to equip adults to encourage their children to reach their full potential.”
At the Boston Children’s Museum, general admission tickets are sold at the admissions desk on the day of the visit.
“We do not offer advance ticket sales, except for group visits with 10-plus people from either a school, camp or other organization,” said Katie Irving. “Gift passes can be purchased online in advance and mailed to the recipient at the purchaser’s request. These passes can be redeemed on any date, but those with the passes still have to check in at the admissions desk.”
The museum does not physically print any tickets. Upon entering the museum, visitors receive a hand stamp no matter if they are showing a membership pass or are paying for tickets.
“We also have library pass coupons available. Local libraries request the half-off coupons that accommodate up to four people, but as with all other visitors, the bearers of the coupons must go to the admissions area before being allowed into the museum,” Irving noted.
Boston Children’s museum sends out e-newsletters to schools throughout Massachusetts, letting them know about the programs offered, which include the Japanese House program, Money Matters, Balls & Tracks and the Native Voices program.
As Manager of Guest Services for the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio, Wendy O’Neal oversees ticketing and admissions. The 94,000-square-foot museum offers both temporary and permanent exhibits, including the recently re-opened planetarium. Boonshoft Museum is the only facility in the United States to have both the Digistar 4 and Christie Mirage 3D Projector Systems There are also three traveling exhibits per year and 33 current permanent exhibits including Discovery Zoo, Kids’ PLAYce, Science Central and Explorer’s Crossing.
“Our guests buy their tickets at the main admissions desk only. The museum does not sell tickets online or by phone. Annual memberships can be purchased online, by phone and also at the admissions desk,” said O’Neal. “Our visitor numbers are growing and as of last year we welcomed more than 200,000 guests. So, to help check in guests on busier days and special events, we have recently purchased CounterPoint, software that allows us to integrate member and guest data. The upgrade included new touch screen registers and an iPhone Component to check in guests, which speeds up the check-in process.”
The Boonshoft Museum does offer special rates and private programs for individuals and corporations as well as school and community groups including senior centers and homeschool networks.
“We use a variety of strategies to get the word out about the museum and its programs,” O’Neal noted. “We use email as well as our official website, print publications, which include our group guide and rental brochure, plus local fairs and conventions and of course, word of mouth.”
As Director of Operations for Amazement Square, the Rightmire’s Children’s Museum in Lynchburg, Va., Amanda Fortner oversees all ticketing policies. The museum, which resides in a 29,000-square-foot historic building, holds nine multidisciplinary exhibitions including Once upon a Building, On the James, Indian Island, Raceways and Voltageville, all of which strive to enrich the learning process for children of the region and beyond.
“We welcome more than 90,000 children and families each year,” said Fortner. “School and education groups are a large focus for our Amazing Adventures School Programs that annually attract more than 11,000 students and educators to the museum for hands-on educational opportunities. To let them know about what is new, we use the e-mazing update electronic newsletter, social media, YouTube and the Amazement Square website.”
Guests pay at the entrance to the museum. Admission passes for future visits or gift passes are also available at the admissions desk.
“With two-day advance notice, groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets for a reduced rate. Amazement Square members have year-round unlimited access to the museum and are able to scan their membership card when they enter,” Fortner explained. “We also participate in the Association of Children’s Museums Reciprocal Membership Program, and we admit up to four ACM members for free with their membership card.”
In the summer of 2012, Amazement Square is introducing a new website with the added ability to pre-purchase passes for admission. Guests who pre-purchase their passes will print them out themselves and show them at the front desk for admittance.
The Delaware Children’s Museum, the state’s first and only museum designed expressly for “children and their grownups” has a strong science-education focus. The seven exhibits are designed around play so little minds and bodies can soak up the experiences.
“For the time being, guests purchase tickets at our admissions desk, which gives us the opportunity to provide the high level of personal service we are known for,” said Brian Withers, director of Guest Services for the 37,000-square-foot museum, which attracts more than 135,000 visitors each year. “As part of the entry experience, our front-line staff members are able to answer visitors’ questions, orient them to the facility, share the day’s special programs and begin the membership conversion process. The museum does routinely look at new and emerging technology to ensure that the ticketing process does meet the needs of all our guests.”
Delaware Children’s Museum also maintains close ties to the education community in four states including Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, all of which represent most of their group audience.
“We welcome public schools, private schools, homeschool groups and preschools,” Withers noted. “In addition, during the summer we work closely with day camps such as those run by the YMCA. To let them know about our special programs, we communicate with them through their group leaders via email and events. Our reservationist is a relationship manager as well and meets with key personnel at larger groups and provides a personal touch in the sales process, which leads to repeat bookings.” –
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