Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2008

Shawnee children’s museum considering merger

February 21, 2008

— More changes likely are to come for Wonderscope Children's Museum, 5705 Flint in Shawnee.

Less than a year after the museum merged with the Beyond the Book organization, it has announced it is considering a merger with The Children's Museum of Kansas City, Kan. The two museums said Monday that they have signed a letter of intent to explore formally combining both organizations.

Kevin Tubbesing, chairman of Wonderscope's board of directors, said combining the two museums in the effort to build a new, "world-class" regional children's museum for Kansas City was simply good common sense.

"They have an identical mission in many ways, and it didn't make any sense for both of us to go out there, and one win half the support in the community and the other get the other half," Tubbesing said. "The whole idea is to consolidate our efforts."

Tubbesing said the Children's Museum of Kansas City has a good body of knowledge, and the merger would create a wider audience and stakeholder base, overall making a stronger organization.

The Children's Museum of Kansas City was founded in 1989 and is currently located in the Indian Springs Marketplace, 4601 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., recently decided to raze Indian Springs in favor of a new development.

In May 2007, when the merger with Beyond the Book was finalized, Wonderscope officials reported they would explore what would be needed to create a regional children's museum, including moving to a new facility. Tubbesing said The Children's Museum's Kansas City, Kan., ties aren't likely to affect where the museum would locate.

"The board has not yet even formed a committee have those discussions," he said. "Where we end up going will be a mixture of economics, should there be a significant donation, and a review of all the significant factors involved in that kind of decision."

The letter of intent for the two museums includes evaluating the feasibility of combining both boards to form one remaining entity, with the ultimate goal of building a world-class children's museum for the Kansas City region. The proposed name of the joined organization is Wonderscope Children's Museum of Kansas City.

As happened before Wonderscope's merger with Beyond the book, a joint "Museum Collaboration Task Force" has been formed and is charged with performing due diligence and working through legal and financial issues as well as the organizational structure and governance. The task force is expected to meet through the end of March and make a final recommendation to both boards in April 2008.

"A combined children's museum would bring tremendous value to Kansas City by strengthening the educational resources available to young families and by creating a new destination-based tourist attraction," said Dr. Mary Abbott, The Children's Museum of Kansas City board chair, in a release.

The merger also has received support from one of Wonderscope's major supporters.

"A merger of these two organizations will serve the growing needs of the families of the region, bring state-of-the-art exhibits to the area, and attract funding that will enhance sustainability," said Bob Regnier, president of Bank of Blue Valley and Kansas City's Philanthropist of the Year.

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