To accommodate increased attendance, miSci will now be open seven days a week, year-round. That’s a first for the museum, according to past board president Bradley Lewis.
Located at 15 Nott Terrace Heights, miSci previously offered that schedule only when school wasn’t in session — during summer and on school breaks.
Executive Director Mac Sudduth predicts a record number of people will visit the museum in 2013, a figure he aims to continue upping until a museum expansion can be justified. So far this year, approximately 70,000 visitors have come through the door. By the end of December, it will be close to 100,000, he estimated.
Attendance figures were not carefully kept last year, according to Sudduth, but he said he believes 2013 attendance will be double that of 2012.
The museum had suffered from a lack of visitors in the past.
In January 2011, citing a weak economy and plans to reorganize, officials announced the museum was cutting 36 hours from its weekly schedule. Sundays were added, but the museum was shut Monday through Wednesday.
“The museum had to do some planning and some re-visioning and before I got here they had done a good job. They had sort of trimmed their sails and done some planning and changed their name and they were ready to take off when I got here,” said Sudduth, who accepted the post of executive director in November 2012.
During the past year-and-a-half, the museum began experimenting with staying open every day during school breaks and during summer vacation — times when the most people would be able to visit — with good results, Lewis said.
“We think we’re at the point that it’s well worth expanding, and based on what we’ve seen so far, we expect to be able to manage it,” he said.
New attractions, including the “Butterflies” exhibit in February, March and April, and the summer “Dinosaurs!” exhibit helped to increase foot traffic. The museum is also working on providing more programs for preschoolers.
MiSci’s new, extended hours will not significantly affect staff hours, Sudduth said.
“The truth is, when we were closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we still had people here,” he said. “We can actually keep the museum open to the public with very few people.”
MiSci employs eight full-time and about 30 part-time employees and relies on the help of several hundred volunteers.
The museum has fluctuating attendance patterns, with fall typically being a slow time, but it’s important for visitors to be able to count on set hours of operation, Sudduth said. Visitation traditionally picks up around Christmastime and snowballs through July, he added.
Lewis commented, “We’ll basically be watching both the dollars and the hours but we’re really confident we have some momentum there and that we have an increasing group that’s coming regularly and a lot that’s on the horizon.”
The next exhibit to be featured at miSci is Trains and Toys, which will begin the day after Thanksgiving. Hands-on toys with science learning possibilities will be a new addition to the traditional train exhibit, which has ushered in the holiday season for about 15 years.