News Column

New director, exhibits coming to Children's Museum

May 5, 2014

By Sarah Elms, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.



May 05--TRAVERSE CITY -- The Great Lakes Children's Museum hired a new executive director to replace John Noonan, who resigned in January after leading the museum for 11 years.

Michael Long takes the reins at the museum on May 8.

Long recently left his executive director position at Jefferson County Administrators Association in Colorado, a professional membership association for leaders in Jefferson County Public Schools.

Long helped found the Northwoods Children's Museum in Wisconsin where he served as its executive director for eight years before his move to Colorado.

Great Lakes Children's Museum Board of Directors president Matt Missias said Long is the "absolute right fit for the position." His museum experience and education background set him apart from the other 24 applicants.

"Not only could he run a museum, not only could he do the job that needed to be done, but he also had the perspective of how to reach our target demographic of children," Missias said.

Board members interviewed 10 candidates and narrowed the pool to three top candidates before they made their decision. Missias said Long has a strong vision of how he wants to see the museum grow and supports the team atmosphere board members were looking for.

"I don't know how else to put it. He gets it," Missias said. "He understands how to run and grow an organization like ours."

Long said children's museums give kids the chance to understand their environment in a fun way, and he's looking forward to figuring out what makes Traverse City tick.

"I'm interested in finding out what's unique about Traverse City and what kids need to learn to understand the world around them," he said.

His goal is to make sure that whatever exhibits or events the museum hosts continue to be relevant and engaging for adults and kids, he said. The museum is geared toward children ages 2 to 6, and Long wants to gradually expand that range to include children up to 10 years old.

Hiring a new executive director is one of many changes planned for the museum in the coming months. Three new water-themed exhibits are in the works.

"It's time to start looking at ways to refresh the space and give kids and families new things to play with," Missias said.

The first is called Building Bridges and will include a bridge that children can build themselves and walk across as well as a suspension bridge modeled after the Mackinac Bridge. The second new exhibit will focus on sail boats.

"We're putting in a sail table with different model boats so kids can attach different size sails to the boats and see how they can be manipulated by the wind," Missias said.

Guardians of the Great Lakes is the third and largest of the new exhibits. It will include information about the Coast Guard and Traverse City and will feature a model helicopter with authentic sounds and lights that children can play in. It also will include a wave tank to teach children about how waves affect the environment.

"What we're looking at is how the geography of the region is protected and served by organizations like the Coast Guard," Missias said.

Museum officials hope to have the first phase of Building Bridges installed in the next few weeks and the sail table set up during the summer. Guardians of the Great Lakes could be ready to go as early as September or as late as March 2015, depending on the designer chosen for the build.

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Source: Record-Eagle, The (Traverse City, MI)