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Children's Discovery Museum faces uncertain future (video)

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Aug. 2, 2013 at 3:02 a.m.
Updated Aug. 3, 2013 at 3:03 a.m.

Branson Durbin, right, 5, of Yorktown, and Brayden Jordan, 3, of Magnolia, play with the giant Lite Brite at the Children's Discovery Museum in Victoria.

The Children's Discovery Museum of the Golden Crescent is nearing a crossroads.

The downtown Victoria nonprofit organization's lease agreement on the building it has occupied since 2002 expires in February 2014.

The Kriesle Building at 204 N. Main St. is owned by the Junior League of Victoria. The Junior League has donated use of the building to the museum rent free.

"The Junior League now needs to sell the building, and the Children's Discovery Museum must find a new location," said Melissa Dixon, who took over as the museum's executive director in February.

The Junior League has offered to rent the building to the museum on a month-to-month basis while it is for sale at $3,000 a month, Dixon said.

The museum is seeking comments from the community on what its next step should be with a survey on the Internet.

"We want the community to be part of this decision," said Dixon. "We want people's honest feedback."

Not only is a building to accommodate the museum at issue, but where that building should be is also a vital question, said Dixon.

"It's been a downtown attraction, but is that the best place for it?" said Sammie Sue Hendrix, secretary of the museum's board of directors. "Where should we be? Is this the right spot?"

Those are questions the museum's feasibility survey is trying to help answer.

The anonymous 10-question survey includes some demographic questions, but its main focus is determining whether there is public support for a capital campaign to fund a new location.

"I don't know that we've ever stopped and asked for that kind of input," said Hendrix. "We have to be realistic. It's hard to compete. There's a lot of work to do. This is just the tip of the iceberg."

In exchange for the rent-free use of the building since 2002, the museum has taken care of its upkeep, including more than $200,000 in repairs and renovations.

Dixon said a successful capital campaign to relocate the museum will be the major factor in the museum's future.

"How long it takes to raise the money will help determine any timeline and whether or not we rent or close down and go to a mobile format where we take our exhibits into classrooms. That's an option," she said.

The museum closed for a brief period at the end of 2012 until Dixon was hired and re-opened in February.

Since reopening and through the end of July, the museum has had 7,472 visits, 30 birthday parties, 26 field trips and eight collaborations, she said.

Dixon said a decision about the museum's future is not something that can be put off much longer.

"Either we shut down or move forward," she said. "It's not an option to continue as we are."



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