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Springfield, Massachusetts is a city on the move, with the brand new Union Station opening this summer and MGM Springfield Casino slated to open in 2018. Springfield has iconic events such as the Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival and the Big E in W. Springfield, and attractions like the Basketball Hall of Fame and MassMutual Center (more on these attractions and happenings at valleyvisitor.com). One of the mainstays of the city’s cultural life is the Springfield Museums group, run by Kay Simpson. We recently talked to Kay about her work.
Tell us about the Springfield Museums and what role your group plays in the life of the city and also in terms of attracting tourists?
Located in the heart of downtown Springfield, the interdisciplinary Springfield Museums offer access to five world class museums, including the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, all under a single admission. From their earliest beginnings, the museums have served as a vibrant center of educational opportunity and offered a window on cultures from around the world. The extraordinary scope of our collections, nearly three million objects and documents, ranges from Chinese ceramics, American and European art, dinosaur fossils and Native American artifacts to technological innovations that changed the world.
Since the mid-1990s, the museums have been a major tourist attraction in terms of attendance and collaborative regional marketing initiatives. The addition of the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden in 2002 attracted world-wide attention and increased our audience by over 125,000 visitors during that year alone. Last year, our attendance was more than 400,000 with 75% of our visitors traveling to the Museums from outside of Springfield. Surveys conducted by the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitor Bureau demonstrate that the Springfield Museums is known as one of the top four destinations in the region along with Yankee Candle, Six Flags and the Basketball Hall of Fame.
What is the back story on how the Dr. Seuss Museum ended up in Springfield, and what has been the reception since it opened in June?
After we opened the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in 2002, people started asking about a museum dedicated to Dr. Seuss. In fact, 80% of our visitors asked about a museum. Working in collaboration with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the Springfield Museums developed a plan for an exhibition designed to trace Theodor Geisel’s (AKA Dr. Seuss) boyhood in Springfield and bring his beloved characters to life through a series of multi-media environments that replicate scenes from his imagination and life-sized three dimensional characters and places from his books.
Inside the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum
The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum also provides our visitors with a personal glimpse into Ted Geisel’s private world. Ted’s stepdaughters Lark Grey Dimond Cates and Leagrey Dimond donated their collections of memorabilia, art work and furniture so the museums could install a recreation of Ted’s studio and sitting room. The recreation is so authentic that visitors have the feeling that Dr. Seuss just stepped out of the room.
The Springfield Museums have been able to capitalize on the enormous market appeal of Dr. Seuss. The new museum has been extensively covered by local, regional, national and international media outlets including NBC Nightly News and the Today show. Since our opening on June 3, our attendance has jumped by more than 300% and the visitation includes tourists from across the country and around the world.
Dr. Seuss has some memorable quotes, and one of our favorites is “It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” Is that one of the gifts you offer visitors to the Dr. Seuss Museum?
Our goal is for visitors to have fun as they learn from the exhibitions in the Dr. Seuss Museum. As one of our patrons remarked, the experience of visiting the museum “is like walking into the pages of Dr. Seuss’s stories and finding all of the characters you love.” We set the tone for the adventure that awaits our visitors with a bright blue Seussian arch topped with pink trees which serves as the entry to the Museum. The ground floor brings to life his beloved books with colorful floor-to-ceiling murals and statues of Yertle the Turtle, the Lorax and more than twenty other of Dr. Seuss’s whimsical creatures.
Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden
Downstairs in the Cat’s Corner educational space, children and adults can make their own Lorax mustache mounted on a wooden stick, create their own Cat in the Hat bow tie or illustrate their own story. So far, the response from visitors has been overwhelmingly positive as is demonstrated in one heartfelt message in our visitor comment book: “I want to grow up to be an author like you,” wrote Sean age 11. “This museum really inspired me.”
For more information visit springfieldmuseums.org