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Children's Discovery Museum officials hope to raise enough money to replace the facility's second-floor agriculture exhibit in the next five years.

NORMAL — After 13 years, the uptown Children's Discovery Museum is taking steps to improve one of its busiest exhibits.

Officials are planning a fundraising campaign to replace the second-floor agriculture display in the next five years, a $1 million expense, said Executive Director Shelleigh Birlingmair.

"Exhibits start to look well-loved and need a little bit more love, (and) the ag area is one of the older exhibits," she said. "Ag is such a vital part of our community that we know we'll always want to have that."

The campaign remains more than a year off, so many details are undecided, including which other museum elements could get improvements. Birlingmair said fundraising could take a couple years to wrap up.

She's unsure if the town, which owns and operates the museum, would contribute tax money to the campaign. The town spent $4.6 million to build the 101 E. Beaufort St. facility in 2004, and employs the staff.

Birlingmair, who took over the museum a year ago this month, also is looking to bring in more traveling exhibits; end the museum's annual shutdown week in early September; and complete a 2018 rebranding to include a new logo and emphasis on the museum's mission of youth education, she told The Pantagraph.

"My idea is to do more (cleaning) throughout the year rather than closing the doors for an entire week, like touch-up painting on a quarterly basis," she said. That could also including "using volunteers to a greater level."

Birlingmair said the rebranding should remind residents that the museum aims to "inspire the love of learning through the power of play." In addition to exhibits, the facility houses special events, drop-off programs for home-schooled students and day and summer camps.

"Our target market is 3 months to fifth grade, so we're working to make sure any programs we do target that age," said Birlingmair, who's ended events like the museum's 2015 Zombie Fest that had no educational portion. She said adult-focused events could resume if they're educational.

Despite that shift, the museum is holding a raffle for a 20-person party on its balcony during next weekend's Illinois State University homecoming parade, including a catered breakfast and four football tickets, valued at $500. Raffle tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the museum through Friday.

A far-off goal for the facility is a "mobile museum" akin to the Bloomington Public Library's bookmobile, which travels the community delivering books and other library experiences to residents.

In the short term, Birlingmair hopes families will enjoy the museum's new layout, which has the "Innovation Station" for older kids on the first floor with activities for toddlers.

"We wanted to give older children a chance to engage with younger siblings on the first floor," she said. "And sometimes people see (relocated exhibits) for the first time because they're so used to the same pattern."

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh


Normal and McLean County Reporter

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