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By guest blogger Nancy Wrenn Bauch
Third Street Program Coordinator at the YWCA
As our spring Access for Everyone campaign began last week, Nancy Wrenn Bauch wrote this letter reflecting on the long history between our two organizations, and the journey we’ve undertaken to improve access, diversity and inclusion at the museum.
The Madison Children’s Museum is a wonderful and magical place where kids and their families can play together while learning along the way. It is also a tremendous community resource, especially for organizations that serve families. I first visited the museum almost 30 years ago when they were located on West Washington Avenue. It was in the basement of an old building but still was a fun place to take the family on a rainy day.
It was exciting when they relocated to 100 State which was a fun and bright building with many new interactive exhibits. My kids loved it, but I was also excited for new possibilities for families at the YWCA with the museum in the neighborhood. I was anxious to find ways to have Third Street families from the YWCA get a chance to play and enjoy the museum as my family had over the years.
I connected with Sandra at MCM (now the the museum’s associate director of education, diversity and inclusion) who was equally enthused about finding ways to serve families who had not accessed the museum. We started by planning a mom “night at the museum.” We did a scavenger hunt and dinner. The evening was a hit with the shadow room being the favorite. We followed that with family nights. Sandra also brought exhibits and activities to the YWCA. It seemed like a very natural partnership.
I and others at the YWCA were really excited when we learned the Madison Children’s Museum was re-locating across the street from the YWCA (at their current location). Now we would be neighbors. Sandra looked for ways to get input for the new museum from families and staff at the YWCA through surveys, discussion and visits. Some families even participated in photo and art activities which became part of the exhibits. They wanted the museum to be a place for everyone.
I had an idea for combining their goals of being inclusive and my need to find a location for the Third Street holiday party during the YWCA renovation. I asked if we could hold the party at the museum. This was a big ask but the museum, wanting to be good neighbors, said yes! It was a huge success and families who had returned for the holiday party for many years loved the new museum venue. We had plenty of space for kids to play, moms to visit and Santa. The museum has continued to host the YWCA Third Street Holiday Party every holiday season.
Along the way the museum learned that it can be challenging to be inclusive and welcoming to all. The YWCA is located just 65 steps from the museum’s front door, but there are many barriers to remove before families feel comfortable to visit.
They hit a few bumps but were open to feedback, worked to find solutions and found funds for training. They also stayed committed to working with partners and learning. We had frank and challenging conversations about race and unconscious bias which eventually led to better awareness, policy changes and a more welcoming museum for families of color. And they were open to finding ways to eliminate barriers by, for instance, providing free passes to families.
My relationship with the Madison Children’s Museum came full circle when I was able to facilitate YWCA Racial Justice and the Equitable Organizations workshops with management and staff. It was great to be a part of their effort to look at the organization and explore unconscious bias, race and privilege in an effort to be more equitable and inclusive. The leadership and staff at the Madison Children’s Museum is committed to making it an inclusive place to play, learn and work. It has been an honor to be a part of the journey and to witness the change.