How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
The "project" as such is really the LEED Silver renovation we completed of the historic armory building in downtown Dover and the subsequent work we have done to knit the Museum into the decision making fabric of the City so that future questions about housing development, parking structure construction, possible additional non profits locating in the city, city policy regarding public art, festivals and even playground design all include CMNH at the table. We have worked on this methodically, slowly and opportunistically.
1. The Museum is in Dover because a group of Dover politicians approached the former Director with an offer she could not refuse. CMNH had long ago outgrown its current location, and the prospects for moving within Portsmouth seemed to be dwindling.
2. CMNH had to raise $3.7 million to renovate the armory and to do that a series of task forces and committees were formed throughout the state. In that process, the organization built some key relationships that it was able to leverage into board participation, ensuring a smooth transition. One of these people was the former mayor of Dover, and current head of the Housing Authority. Another was the former Economic and Industrial Authority Director for Dover, who later became Commissioner of DRED at the State level.
3. Choosing to do a Silver LEED project was an important decision - it set CMNH apart as the first LEED museum in the state, and one of only 18 in the whole country at that time.
4. After moving in, we began to say "yes" to every request we received to sit on a committee. Keeping in mind something a colleague had said to me once years ago about being a good friend and listening even when the conversation is not about you.
**We put staff, including the Director, on a local Tourism Committee along with the Economic Redevelopment Department, Dover Main Street, Recreation Director, the Greater Dover Chamber, and a rep for the local hotel chain. After 2 years we asked the group to add the Arts Commission. This meeting allowed us direct access to the person who was recruiting new businesses into town to make our case through him about the value we add. It also allowed us to collaboratively schedule dates for local arts events, festivals, farmer's markets and other public gatherings to take our calendar into account.
**We sit on another Economic Redevelopment Department committee designed to link schools to local businesses through tech voc programs. This lets us explain our role in STEM and workforce readiness to both audiences at the same time.
**We are on a Kids Cabinet committee which includes the local teen center, police department, Children's Home, and others through which we work on community engagement projects including End 78 Hours of Hunger and other outreach.
**We lobbied for an At Large seat for the Museum on the Dover Arts Commission and while that didn't pass, the Executive Director was voted onto the Commission. This was the platform we used to work on a city Arts Policy which then formed the foundation for the first ever temporary public art installation presented in collaboration between the Museum and Arts Commission last September.
5. We write about our work as often as possible sounding the themes of economic impact and relevance. We have such good relationships with the Economic Redevelopment Authority that we now have a column in the Dover Economic Times paper to talk about our work for a business audience.
6. The Museum's Director has made a point of getting to know the Chamber ED through coffees and lunches. Based on this relationship the Museum is at the table on a very important feasibility study and community needs assessment designed to evaluate whether a local mothballed movie theater could be brought back as a community arts center. If that were to happen, CMNH might have a significant interest in the project and being part of the Task Force is the best way for us to be the first to learn what we need to know to make that determination and be first in line if it turns out to be important.
7. In an even more active role, CMNH approached the Recreation Department which is our direct landlord, about renovating the playground immediately outside our doors. The Rec Director and CMNH Director have a good personal relationship and because the temporary art opening was such a success, there is a high level of trust. CMNH offered to fundraise for a design phase to explore what a destination "science playground" could look like, rather than simply replacing playground equipment. The Rec Director agreed and CMNH successfully brought enough money to the table to complete a Concept Phase. The Rec Director and Chamber Director both took a public stand in support of the project which significantly helped in the grant application. While this project is only in Concept it has garnered a lot of interest and has opened some new doors for the Museum which look like they will in turn lead to new Board development and possibly funding from some local businesses.
Have they been refined over time?
The clear answer is yes. Initially the goal was just to renovate a larger building, move the Museum into it, and rebuild audience and funding in a new city. Once moved in, with the focus no longer on a building project, the question really changed to what is our role both as a destination for so many people to the city, and as a promoter of arts and culture. The Museum was going to need to be more than just a building. In the past 2 years we have stopped talking about the "institution" and substituted the word "organization". We have created off site programming as well as this emphasis on local relationships. And our vision statement, adopted just 18m ago, reads "We aspire to shape communities by celebrating creativity, learning and collaboration, and by understanding their role in setting children on the path to lifelong success." None of that was the organization's objective 5 years ago.