Stellar support pushes CMOO to expand

The Children's Museum of Oswego's capital project survey has shown overwhelming community support for its continued operation, and plans are in the works for a large-scale fundraising campaign to support expansion and renovation of its current space at 7 W. Bridge St., Oswego. Above, the second-floor of the museum is home to several hands-on exhibits for children of all ages to learn and explore.

OSWEGO — The Children's Museum of Oswego (CMOO) has announced the results of a two-month community survey to ascertain area support for a massive expansion project, and organization officials are "thrilled" with the results.

CMOO, founded in 2013 and currently located at 7 West Bridge Street in downtown Oswego, offers hands-on learning and recreational activities for families in the only dedicated facility of its kind in Oswego County.

According to Jillian Shaver, CMOO executive director, the study sought to test a development plan for a permanent museum and appropriately strate-gize for a capital campaign to raise the funds necessary to realize the museum's vision of a permanent, year-round center for enrichment.

"We're very encouraged by the great response to the survey and we certainly saw a desire to move forward," said Shaver. "We're looking at this as a community project to help revitalize downtown with a diverse cross-section of the region." The survey, conducted in partnership with consultants from the Steier Group, engaged nearly 250 local families, businesses and families. According to Shaver, 89 percent of respondents said they would support a capital campaign to establish a permanent home for CMOO, and that it would have a positive educational and economic impact on the community.

According to Shaver, CMOO current objectives include recruiting a leadership team to form the backbone of the capital campaign workforce and further develop a communication and appeal strategy.

The almost $2.5 million capital project is triple-tiered, according to Shaver. The $1.2 million "Celebration Goal" will allow the museum to complete the build-out of the space and professionally fabricate a "generous portion" of exhibits.

The $1.7 million "Challenge Goal" will enable professional design and installation of all exhibits.

Finally, the $2.4 million "Visionary Goal" will let the museum complete all projects as well as a "town square," toddler area, laboratory class and establish a quarter-million dollar endowment.

Although much work remains to be done for CMOO to reach its ultimate goal in terms of programming offered and materials on-site for interactive use, since moving into the Bridge Street location the museum and its staff and volunteers have been providing educational opportunities on a near-daily basis.

March's theme of "Out Of The World" focused on interplanetary exploration and space travel; April's "Superheroes Save The Earth" theme will include environmental and conservation exhibits to coincide with Earth Day, April 22.

In terms of long-term programming and educational opportunities made possible by CMOO's planned capital campaign, many planned exhibits will incorporate aspects of Oswego County's history, industry and environment.

"This is about celebrating the entire community," said Shaver. "We have really unique assets here from our natural resources, agriculture and history and we want to showcase them in a way that's developmentally appropriate for children." Concepts along those lines would include interactive water tables simulating the St. Lawrence Seaway and Erie Canal; hydroelectric, nuclear and solar power generation simulators; and a "maker movement" showcase of aluminum production and processing inspired by Novelis.

After years of hard work, Shaver and the CMOO board of trustees feel they are on the verge of the tipping point in a "master plan" for the 8,000 square feet of space which they hope will serve as a hub of family activity.

"We're hoping this building will stay a cornerstone of downtown," said Shaver.

More information on the Children's Museum, including hours of operation and volunteer opportunities, can be found at www.cmoo.org.

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