Over the past two years, some of the challenges children’s museums and many public facing institutions in general across the nation have dealt with have been: how to reopen their locations, reevaluating what has to change to make staff and families feel more comfortable as the community navigates reopening, and how their museum can meet children and families’ needs now. Sitting down with Port Discovery’s President & CEO, Carter Polakoff, she talks all about the hopes, dreams and plans that the museum has going forward.
Port Discovery had its own challenges coming into 2022. The pandemic greatly affected the city of Baltimore, its residents, visitors and the rest of the community. “It’s been hard to predict patterns [of socialization] and the way families and children are going to interact with one another, so we have been adapting and learning each month different ways to interact with our community. What works one month could change so much the next month.” Polakoff explained. Port Discovery has taken pride in being adaptive and nimble when faced with unexpected challenges like the rise of the Omicron variant as well as taken the opportunity to host a vaccines clinic in partnership with the City of Baltimore.
Even with the challenges of reopening, the museum has come back stronger than ever. Polakoff believes the most rewarding accomplishment of 2022 was how our staff came together like a family to face new changes. When speaking about her supportive and creative staff, she mentions that, “we have a shared purpose of why we are here and take pleasure everyday as the kids and their families come in excited.” Whether you are a guest, a sponsor or an employee, Port Discovery’s goal is for everyone to walk in and be truly happy to be there.
One of Port Discovery’s goals to start 2023 was reestablishing a new mission, a vision and set of values. “We [wanted] to figure out what our values were right now, we talked to lots of board members, to community members, to children, [and] to staff members” stated Polakoff. The new changes include focusing on playfulness, joy and fun while focusing on making sure the museum is accessible for all children, and their families. The museum staff were also taken in account for the new vision. The staff must be an embodiment of an organization’s mission and vision, and Polakoff believes it is important to recognize, encourage, and support that professional growth. If you would like to read our new mission, vision and set of values, click here.
Along with Port Discovery’s goals, Polakoff has her own personal goals as President: “I am really excited to make sure that we have a space where visitors of all ages are excited to return over and over again throughout the year. Not only because they have fun, but because they feel a sense of belonging and joy when they are in our space. So, I will be taking a deep look at our exhibits and what we are offering here and making a plan for future renovations.” The museum is going through an exciting transformation this upcoming year.
Port Discovery is excited to bring so much more to the Baltimore community. Some of the new additions that you can experience this upcoming year include a renovated atrium space that will be able to hold larger events, such as business breakfasts and fundraisers as well as refreshed birthday party spaces. Polakoff is also looking forward to the museum adding in a new micro-market to give guests fresh and portable food options to add to their visit, as well as the opening of a children’s bookshop, in partner with SnugBooks, both aimed to open in the beginning of 2023. Last but not least, the Museum’s beloved playhouse exhibit will be renovated into an exciting new theatrical playspace, scheduled to open late summer.
Ultimately, Port Discovery would not be where it is today without the wonderful support and joy of our guests. Polakoff would love to give special acknowledgement to museum members, “We have hundreds and hundreds of members who come to our museum each week and they are the lifeline of the museum. I am so grateful for the families who believe in us and support us.” If you would like to learn more about museum memberships and become a member, click here. As the museum and staff look back on 2022 and forward toward 2023, we will take everything we have learned and use it as a guide to bring the museum into a better and brighter future. Port Discovery is in the heart of such a creative, innovative and beautiful city and the goal is to continue to add to it.