MARQUETTE, Mich., (WJMN) – The Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum was closed until June for the coronavirus. Due to the closure and now decreased capacity, the museum has seen an approximately 75% decrease in visitors.

With the loss of visitors, they’ve also seen a loss of income. Nheena Weyer Ittner, director of the museum, says they have now reorganized themselves to be open, but they still aren’t seeing the level of visitors they normally do.

“60% of the children’s museum budget is from those types of incomes, from people coming in the door, rental property, memberships, selling things in the store,” said Weyer Ittner. “I’m not selling anything in the store right now, I’m really really down in my earned incomes. I still get my rents from downstairs which really helps a lot”

The museum put on a “paint the town with love” fundraising event on August 29 and 30. Weyer Ittner says it was still a success but they are trying to figure out how they will do their other fundraisers this year.

“We’re going to jump right into trying to figure out how can we do our event fundraising without having an event,” said Weyer Ittner. “So that’s a challenge, but you know, I’m out there and just you know pleading with people just to help us keep our head above water.”

According to Weyer Ittner, the museum received the PPP loan in March and used that to pay its employees until July. She says they are accepting monetary donations on their website. Their website also has a list of items that can be donated.

“Any kind of help, anything is appreciated,” said Weyer Ittner. “The Children’s Museum has a really really nice platform on its website to make donations, very easy and I invite people to go to the website and click that donate button.”

Visitors are a large part of what keeps the museum in business according to Weyer Ittner. Their new protocol for visitors is that they must purchase tickets online ahead of time, wear a mask, wash their hands often and social distance. Weyer Ittner says they’ve decreased their capacity to under 25% of what they can have in the building normally.

“We are letting in 25 people at a time and it’s well below the 25% occupancy that we’re allowed to let in at the museum,” said Weyer Ittner. “We are trying to be super duper conservative and careful so we want to make it so that you feel comfortable when you come here.”

With 16,000 square feet, Weyer Ittner says there is room for families to be really distanced. They have also purchased new types of disinfectants and have increased their cleaning efforts.

“We wanted to make sure that we were disinfecting but it had to be safe disinfectant for little kids so we have food safe disinfectant that we’re using,” said Weyer Ittner. “We have two different kinds we have something that is actually for high traffic areas and then just for surfaces.”

In addition to cleaning surfaces, they are rotating toys out for quarantine periods and deeper cleaning. Parents are welcome to disinfect surfaces before their children play and staff is also regularly wiping down surfaces. Weyer Ittner says they are also taking temperatures of everyone who comes in.

Weyer Ittner says they are still adding exhibits and have many fun things for children to engage with. Visitors to the museum can learn about the human body, bees, the water cycle and much more.

“We are working with Northern students to build the giant heart we’re actually you know kind of partnering with them and that’s going to be really exciting and then the brain wall will be happening too,” said Weyer Ittner.

People interested in visiting the museum must purchase tickets online. Time slots start at 2 hours but can be extended for up to a full day in the museum.

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