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Will Janesville get to see a museum?

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Ann Fiore
November 20, 2007
— Can Janesville support a children’s museum?

Members of the Janesville Museum, Inc., steering committee are about to find out, thanks to a $30,000 grant offered by Alliant Energy and two charitable organizations.


Alliant Energy, the Janesville Foundation and the Nancy B. Parker Charitable Trust approved the grant, which will fund a feasibility study for the proposed museum.


“We’re hoping to find out if the community thinks it can be supportive, if the community is interested, what is the vision,” said Cheryl Peterson, steering committee co-chairwoman.


The committee envisions a museum that would weave Janesville’s heritage into interactive children’s exhibits and lure more people downtown.


And Peterson already has seen the interest.


The idea for the children’s museum grew out of a group project at Forward Janesville’s Leadership Development Academy, which Peterson attended. She said group members saw a need for a children’s attraction that would have regional interest.


The group visited other children’s museums and surveyed teachers, day-care providers, civic groups and others. The survey responses, announced in May, were overwhelmingly positive.


“It’s been very rewarding and very exciting to see it come to this point,” said Peterson, director of marketing and community relations at M&I Bank. “We’re thrilled our idea has gotten this much attention and momentum.”


Janesville Museum, Inc., has contracted with Vandewalle & Associates and The Maude Group to conduct the feasibility study, which will start this month.


Madison-based Vandewalle is the consulting firm that developed Janesville’s downtown and comprehensive plans. The Maude Group, based in Glen Ellyn, Ill., is a museum consulting firm.


The committee hopes to have a final report by April or May, Peterson said.


Alliant Energy is excited to be part of the feasibility study, Marthea Fox, director of community affairs for Alliant Energy, said in a news release.


“We are committed to improving the quality of life in our communities, and we applaud the dreamers and planners that will make our collective vision come alive,” she said.


Bonnie Lynne Robinson, president of the Janesville Foundation, said:


“Understanding what’s needed to create a children’s museum that truly serves this community and geographical area inspired the Janesville Foundation Board of Directors to support this important first step.


“In collaboration with Alliant Energy and the Nancy B. Parker Charitable Trust, the Janesville Foundation sees the feasibility study as vital to a project that combines learning and wonder in ways essential to our quality of life.”


The popularity of children’s museums appears to be contagious.


In 1975, the United States had about 38 children’s museums, according to the Association of Children’s Museums. Eighty more museums opened between 1976 and 1990, and 100 have been added since 1990.


Today, the association has 341 member museums around the world, about 24 percent of which are in the start-up phase.


The committee

Members of the Janesville Museum, Inc., steering committee:


Cheryl Peterson, M&I Bank, co-chairperson.


Terri Miland, Johnson Bank, co-chairperson.


Ron Ochs, M&I Bank.


Heather Walz, Boys & Girls Club of Janesville.


Benjamin Bryant, Alliant Energy.


Anne Lutz, Alliant Energy.


Mark Cullen, J.P. Cullen & Sons.


John Westphal, Westphal & Co.


Steve Sheiffer, Janesville city manager.


Doug Venable, Janesville economic development director.


Alexis Kuklenski, Janesville associate planner.



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