West Virginia children’s museum director ramps up outreach

MARTINSBURG (AP) — Bree Myers, newly hired executive director of For The Kids, By George! Children’s Museum in Martinsburg, said her short-term goal is to attract 5,000 visitors by the end of the year, at least in part, by ramping up community outreach efforts.

To that end, the museum is planning special “first Friday” activities at the beginning of each month, including a history scavenger hunt for children ages 7 to 12, followed by a tea party for ages 4 to 9, and railroads and trains story time and craft for ages 4 to 8. The activities are free with museum admission. Admission is $5 for groups of 10 or more through August.

The museum is housed in the Martinsburg train station at 229 E. Martin St.

“The word is slowly, but surely getting out,” about the museum, said Myers, pointing to an increase in group tour reservations.

Since May 26, her first day on the job, Myers said she has continued to talk with people in the community who do not know about the museum, which was dedicated in May 2013.

“It’s huge, and it’s right there, and you wonder how five out of 10 people you talk to don’t know about it,” Myers said of the museum. “It’s a great thing, and I think that people are just missing an opportunity, especially right here in Martinsburg, not knowing this is right in their backyard.”

Myers said she is currently reaching out to various groups in the community over the summer, but also is working to build a relationship with area schools. The museum is putting together a curriculum guide for teachers, so it easier for them to work field trips to the museum into their course plans, she said.

In addition to the “first Friday” activities each month, Myers said in the future they also would like to bring traveling and visiting exhibits to the museum.

She also said they “certainly are looking forward to and hoping that a partnership develops with the (Berkeley County) Roundhouse Authority” to potentially allow for museum visitors to tour the historic Baltimore and Ohio Railroad roundhouse and shops complex.

The complex is across the railroad tracks from the children’s museum, but is managed by the roundhouse authority.

With a current operating budget of about $100,000, Myers said they are planning a large fundraiser this fall and intend to hold an annual event to raise money.

The current budget includes $50,000 from the city of Martinsburg, as well as financial backing from the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation and the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Myers said.

Myers said the museum will look to fundraising, admissions and book shop sales, business sponsorships and grant funding to maintain financial stability.

“We’re not looking at our revenue coming from one source — we’re looking at a variety of ways that this is going to happen and continue to help us grow,” Myers said.

The museum was the brainchild of the late Jim Castleman, who served as manager of the Washington Heritage Trail project. It was jump-started in the fall of 2008 by a $290,000 National Scenic Byways Program grant award.

A graduate of Martinsburg High School and Elon University, Myers said she returned to the area in November 2013 after doing fundraising work for several years with the American Cancer Society in North Carolina.

After graduating from Elon, she worked in the alumni relations departments for both American University and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The museum’s regular hours are Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., but reservations can be made for weekday tours.

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