At The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, there are years defined by the extraordinary work of our dedicated staff, professionals-in-residence, and volunteers. There are years that are outstanding through the success of our exhibits and collections. The year 2014 will be remembered for all these things and more, as the museum was the recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service—the nation’s highest honor for museum service to the community.
First Lady Michelle Obama presented the award to The Children’s Museum during a White House ceremony on May 8, 2014. Special guests and community representatives Spencer and Erica Hahn accompanied museum President and CEO Jeffrey H. Patchen to accept the award. Eight-year-old Spencer, who was named one of two Great American Museum Advocates by the American Alliance for Museums for 2014, has had his life transformed by The Children’s Museum.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis was one of just 10 recipients of the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, which is given by The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). In 2014, The National Medal marked 20 years of honoring institutions that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities.
News of the award spread quickly throughout our local community and nationwide, bringing congratulatory messages from Indiana dignitaries such as U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, U.S. Representative André Carson, and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, to name a few.
We are extremely pleased to receive this extraordinary honor that celebrates the accomplishments of all the staff and volunteers who work so hard to make The Children’s Museum the best place in the world for intergenerational learning. Our museum is proud to be a pioneer in both the education and museum fields.
A Year of Accolades
The IMLS National Medal was just one of many prestigious honors the museum received in 2014. Another important highlight was the museum’s recognition as one of the Top 20 Most-Visited Museums in North America according to Global Attractions Attendance Report Museum Index, sponsored by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the AECOM group.
Perhaps even more impressive, the museum ranked second in North American museum visitation relative to its Designated Market Area (DMA), which is significantly smaller than other metropolitan areas featured on the list provided by the Global Attractions Attendance Report and Demographic World Urban Areas May 2014 edition. In that context, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis ranked second only to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C., in terms of local and regional visitation.
Other notable accolades for 2014 included:
- Named The Best Family Museum in the USA by the readers of USA Today/10Best.
- Recognized as one of the Top Workplaces in Central Indiana by The Indianapolis Star.
- Honored by the Indiana Society of Chicago Foundation as one of Indiana’s outstanding organizations at the Society’s annual dinner. The recognition included a $20,000 award for scholarships for the museum’s school membership program.
World-Class Exhibits and Events
Two exhibits demonstrated the museum’s commitment to bringing transformative exhibits to Indianapolis and fostering cultural awareness and understanding: Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, directly from China’s Shaanxi Province and Take Me There:® China.
Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army told the astounding story of the tomb of China’s first emperor and featured real Terra Cotta Warriors from the burial site in Xi’an, considered by many to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. The exhibit marked the only 2014 U.S. appearance of the rare and priceless Terra Cotta Warriors, and it was developed and produced by The Children’s Museum.
Take Me There: China is the second in the museum’s exhibit series exploring modern life in a single world culture. As a brand-new immersive experience, Take Me There: China focuses on life in the world’s most populous country and is one of the largest exhibits about contemporary China ever mounted in the U.S. The exhibit welcomes visitors to explore the daily life, customs, and celebrations of Chinese families through art, music, food, tea culture, calligraphy, and traditional Chinese medicine.
On May 9, 2014, the opening of the two exhibits was celebrated with a special event, Celebration China: A Magnificent Evening gala, with proceeds benefiting The Children’s Museum Fund. The event featured authentic international and local entertainment and sumptuous Chinese cuisine, and was attended by more than 500 special guests, with national and international dignitaries including: H.E. Cui Tiankai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States; Qiang Jia, Deputy Director of China’s Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center; U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly; U.S. Congresswoman Susan Brooks; Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann; and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.
We are extremely thankful for the advisory assistance and partnerships that made both China’s Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army and Take Me There:® China possible, including our relationships with the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center and numerous other Chinese institutions, presenting support from Eli Lilly and Foundation, and the assistance of many local individuals and organizations such as the Chinese Culture Network at Eli Lilly and Company, and the Indianapolis Chinese Community Center, Inc. In addition, many members of the Indianapolis Chinese community provided talent and expertise for which the museum is beyond grateful. These groundbreaking projects simply would not have been possible without their support and expertise.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is well known for presenting exhibits that not only tell astonishing stories, but also involve visitors through interpretive presentations and interactive experiences. In 2014, we set an all-time high capture rate for interpretive programs, reaching 86% of our visitors through an average of 185 programs daily. And we were pleased to set the bar another notch higher with these extraordinary new interactions:
- Bucky Lives! enchanted visitors with its lifelike representation of the teenage T. rex fossil in our Dinosphere®. In the show, the one-of-a-kind, human-operated puppet (created exclusively for The Children’s Museum) literally comes to life.
- Warrior Awakens was a second extraordinary new performance featuring a life-size Terra Cotta Warrior who came to life to the delight of visitors.
- The museum continues to put visitors in touch with real scientists and artists. In 2014, Indiana University Professor Charles Beeker became the museum’s Extraordinary Underwater Archaeologist-in-Residence. Beeker, who serves as director of the Office of Underwater Science in the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, along with his IU team and The Children’s Museum, went on a summer expedition to waters off the Dominican Republic in search of artifacts from the 1725 shipwreck of the Neustra Señora de Begoña. Items discovered on the expedition, including a cannon, a verso (a smaller ship gun), musket balls, and silver pieces of eight, went on display in the museum’s exhibit National Geographic Treasures of the Earth in October 2014.
With the support of our members, donors, and volunteers, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis continues to be one of the most-visited museums in North America. In 2014, attendance topped 1.2 million, and attendance to China’s Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army reached more than 171,000—an extraordinary 175% of our goal. Enthusiasm for the exhibit also helped the museum achieve its highest school attendance in five years with 101,892 school visitors.
$10 Million in Guild Contributions
We are proud of the Children’s Museum Guild for 2014’s Haunted House activities, which brought in a record-breaking $608,960 in contributions, taking the Guild’s total Haunted House gifts to more than $10 million! The Guild’s 51st Haunted House, Creepy Carnival, experienced strong attendance with more than 62,000 visitors and included a new component, The Black Hat Dash—a 2K/5K family fun run/walk through the Mid-North Neighborhood.
10th Annual Power of Children Awards
In 2014 we celebrated the 10th Annual Power of Children Awards, which recognize students in Grades 6 to 11 who exemplify an extraordinary commitment to public service and social responsibility. To date, 50 youths from 32 cities and 11 states have been honored through the program. Together, they have raised more than $10 million to continue their amazing projects, which have had impact on more than 1.7 million people. The Power of Children Awards program is an extension of the museum’s exhibit The Power of Children: Making a Difference®, which tells the stories of three extraordinary youths of the 20th century who faced profound trials and emerged as heroes: Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White. The museum was extremely honored to have Ruby Bridges as the keynote speaker for the 10th annual Power of Children Awards dinner and program on Nov. 7, 2014, as we celebrated a decade of generous support from the Deborah Joy Simon Charitable Foundation.
Growing Economic Impact
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest cultural tourism driver for Indiana, drawing visitors from across central Indiana, the Midwest region, and beyond. That visitation has a positive impact on central Indiana’s economy. The Children’s Museum has long measured its economic impact, periodically commissioning studies from Mark S. Rosentraub, PhD, the Bruce and Joan Bickner Endowed Professor of Sports Management at the University of Michigan.
The 2014 report shows that The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has an overall economic impact of more than $138.7 million, including nearly $95 million in spending on hotels and restaurants by out-of-town visitors. The report also demonstrated that the economic impact of the museum has grown $8 million in real terms since the previous study conducted in 2011.
Robust Financial Performance
Our endowment returns ranked in the top quartile of performance in its benchmark universe for the past three, five, and 10 years. In 2014, the museum’s endowment increased approximately 6%. The museum also maintained its Aa3 credit rating by Moody’s Investors Services based on its strong balance sheet, healthy liquidity, and market position.
- 41% Support from the endowment
- 38% Admissions, membership fees, and museum tours
- 11% Donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, The Children’s Museum Guild, and other organizations
- 10% Program and activity fees, museum store, and leased restaurant
- 35% Exhibit and collections maintenance, staffing and training, programs, educational activities, visitor services, community initiatives, and educational outreach
- 34% Utilities, building and equipment maintenance, safety and security, general administration, information systems, and debt service
- 22% Development, communication services, admissions, and memberships
- 6% Capital and artifact additions and exhibition (new and reconditioned)
- 3% Museum store, food service, building rentals
Our ambitious presentation of extraordinary family learning experiences was noticed around the world in 2014. During the year we made 2.4 BILLION global media impressions, including major-market publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, USA Today, and China Daily. Our website traffic increased a remarkable 63% to achieve a five-year high, and our Facebook followers topped 100,000, signifying new levels of engagement.
Together, we secured our world-class status, which was recognized this past award-winning year. With your sustained support, we will continue to fulfill our mission to create extraordinary learning experiences that have the power to transform the lives of children and families.
Jeffrey H. Patchen