OSWEGO — The puzzle pieces are steadily coming together for the Children’s Museum of Oswego (CMOO), who Wednesday announced the hiring of Director of Education Kathryn Watson ahead of the beloved downtown institution’s expected re-opening this spring.
Last summer CMOO closed its doors to visitors as it embarked on an expansion that will ultimately include 4,000 square feet of new, interactive edu-taining exhibits and bring its total footprint to 10,000 square feet.
With its aim set to re-open in spring, museum officials said in a release that the hiring of Watson proved an “excellent fit.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Kathryn to our team,” said CMOO Executive Director of Jill Shaver in announcing Watson’s hire. “She brings a great deal of passion, enthusiasm and experience that aligns well with our mission to inspire children to learn, discover, create and explore through the power of play”
Watson, an Elmira native who has lived in Oswego for the past two years, comes with an extensive resume that includes experience in the academic field as well as the art appreciation industry.
Watson’s pursuit of education led her to work at a small auction house in Boston as a fine arts specialist, where she realized her favorite parts of the job were doing research and educating shoppers about the pieces they were collecting.
From there, she enrolled at Harvard University and received her master’s degree in education, which according to Watson taught her about quality of programming.
“One of the things we focused on a lot in our work and coursework (at Harvard) was that it is not enough to just create programming, you have to create quality programming and you have to have consistent access to quality programming,” Watson said. “That is my main focus and you have to know your community and listen to what they have to say.”
That laser-focus on programming would help the museum better appeal to visitors young and old alike upon its re-opening, Shaver said,
“Programming allows the museum to cater to the developmental needs and interests of a wider age range of visitors, from programs designed specifically for very young children who are just starting to become mobile to older children who want to dive deeper into topics like robotics, computer programming or tactile arts,” Shaver said. “Evolving programs also give museum visitors the opportunity to experience new thoughts, ideas and perspectives each time they come to the museum.”
One of Watson’s points of main emphasis will be accessibility and dispelling intellectual barriers, something she felt was missing during the time when she was finishing her Courtauld Institute of Art in London.
“We want to be able to meet people where they are and we don't want people to come into the museum and feel like they’re supposed to know what to do,” Watson said. “Museums can be intimidating and we don't want that at all. We want people to feel welcome, we want it to be a warm place and we want it to be a place where kids can come and play and remember why play is such a good thing.”
The former Ivy Leaguer said she wants the museum to be a place of learning that is also useful to parents.
“I hope we can be a safe place for parents and children in the community and that we can be a place where children can move their bodies and learn about nutrition and fitness and be active, especially when it is freezing cold day,” Waston said. “We want to provide them with a place to explore and learn things meaningful to them and become an inspiration for their own learning and interests.”
Watson said she is also hoping to have an open discourse with the community when it comes to feedback.
“I’m really hoping to get a lot of community feedback to know exactly what this community feels like they need from the children’s museum and figure out how we can get back to them,” Watson said.