Posted by: COSI | December 9, 2008

COSI’s Free Day

I’m still tired from a long, but rewarding day on Sunday. Slept through my alarm Monday morning which I rarely do—reminding me how taxing it can be out on the COSI exhibit floors—something others do with high energy every day.

We moved our Community Open House (COH) day from the Thanksgiving weekend to a Sunday—in part to better assure that families were able to participate. We were worried that the move after a number of years would negatively impact turnout. I was figuring that we wouldn’t hit the 6500 we had last year. So I was wrong again.

Over 7,000 people took advantage of our free open house, at one point coming in at 2,000 people per hour. But our team is really skilled at service and handling large numbers of guests—and that is the other thing which impressed me.

I didn’t really understand until Sunday how this is also a day of the team coming together—all the Vice Presidents, myself, and many from our administrative area are down on the floor. It’s one of those times that everyone, regardless of position, is focused on the same thing—a great day for our guests—many who might be at COSI for the first time.

Some team members over the years are quite skilled and can handle the box office computers—someone like me does best just helping greet the guests and point them in the right direction.

I walked around a lot to see how our guests use the building and how some of our special activities—like having COSI’s mascot Ratio on the floor—are faring with the families. We seemed to need every activity and experience we could drum up for the families that kept coming all day.

But on a day like COH, I also think about how we provide access—now instead of just COH we have reduced cost evenings at the end of each month, reduced family memberships for those with limited financial resources, access for partner organizations and families, and a full time team member focused on building partnerships that will continue to build ongoing access. Unfortunately, in this financial climate fewer partners are able to help underwrite the access and our revenues from attendance are still critical to us balancing our budget. Somehow we’ve got to balance being a community resource for all and keeping our reclaimed financial strength.

How do other museums approach access? How important do you think it is for COSI to be focused on assuring that our experiences are accessible to all?

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