Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sustainable Museums. What happened to COSI Toledo?

In case you hadn't heard, COSI Toledo closed down permanently on December 31, 2007, after 10 years of operation.

I think its a little sad and scary that one of the early "brand(ed) names" of the science center business, COSI, has taken such a drubbing in both its greatly expanded Columbus location, as well as in its now defunct Toledo satellite.

Unfortunately, the news of museum closings, like COSI Toledo's, begs several important questions: 1) Are the traditional business models of museum operation truly sustainable? 2) Is the public really willing to support museums directly (through admissions, contributions, etc.) and/or indirectly through taxes, millages, etc.? 3) Should the IRS that grants 501 (c) 3 non-profit status for museums insist on more realistic business plans? All tough questions, which I don't claim to have the definitive answers to, but I am interested in starting a dialogue. So, what do you think?

To get us started, here's a thoughtful article from Neal Rubin in the Detroit News discussing the importance of supporting cultural institutions.

Here's a link to some comments on the situation from some people who live in Toledo.

UPDATE: Now the folks at COSI Toledo are trying to make a go of it by offering outreach programs to local schools (See this ExhibiTricks post)