Embracing change

By Todd Cohen

The Exploris museum in Raleigh is giving itself a fighting chance to survive.

After raising more than $50 million in public and private support, Exploris never captured the fancy, or the repeat business, of children or adults.

Yet it clung to the idea it could overcome lackluster exhibits and marketing through the connections of its founder, Gordon Smith III, and his vision of a museum to connect children to the world.

But under pressure from Wake County, its biggest backer, Exploris finally is changing.

Attendance is up. A deficit has become a surplus. Smith has quit. And the museum is retooling its exhibition strategy, volunteer leadership and business model.

Saying it is “committed to creating dramatic change,” Exploris’ board is giving the museum a global “person-to-person” focus, and aims over four years to retire its $5 million debt, raise $6.1 million for operations, improvements and marketing, and win annual renewal of state funding that this year totals $500,000.

If it sticks to its plan, improves exhibits and marketing, and makes quick adjustments when needed, Exploris’ new board has a decent shot at climbing out of its financial hole and creating a museum that justifies the community’s continued investment.

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