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The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh received the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, one of the highest honors a museum can receive, for initiatives that reach out to the community and give community members a place to call home.
The only other Pittsburgh organization to receive the award since its inception in 1994 is the Carnegie Science Center, which won in 2003, said Jeannine Mjoseth, a public affairs officer for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which gives out the award.
IMLS gives 10 awards annually, along with $10,000 grants, to museums and libraries based on their social, educational, environmental or economic contributions to their communities.
Bill Schlageter, marketing director for the Children’s Museum, attributed the award to the number and quality of programs the museum directs.
A major part of the work is the Charm Bracelet Project, which looks to unite the Northside and make it a safe, vibrant place for families and community members.
“IMLS awarded the National Medal to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, in part, because of its Charm Bracelet Project,” said Mjoseth in an e-mail.
Two recent programs the CBP funded are the Venture Outdoors program to bring rock climbing and kayaking to Allegheny Commons Park and the “Allegheny Voices” project, which allowed Manchester Academic Charter School students to interview elderly Northside residents about their experiences growing up in the same neighborhood.
“It’s a new model that’s finding its way to communities nationwide,” Schlageter said about the Charm Bracelet Project.
He said another reason the museum won the award was its partnerships with local organizations like the Saturday Light Brigade, a family radio station; Child Watch, an advocacy group; a University of Pittsburgh learning program; two Pittsburgh Public School programs; and Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh.
The museum provides affordable rent for these family-friendly non-profits, and Schlageter said their proximity to each other enriches the environment for everyone.
A third major reason for the award is the YouthALIVE! program, which provides fun and educational activities for participating students. Schlageter said the activities range from attending concerts to inviting guest lecturers to talk about job interviews and resumes.
Mjoseth also mentioned the Children’s Museum’s collaboration with the Andy Warhol Museum to restore and reopen the New Hazlett Theater as well as the Neighborhood Microgrant Program, which supports community programs, as reasons for the award.
Schlageter said he did not yet know what the museum would do with the $10,000 grant, but that it would likely go toward continuing programs and improving the visitor experience.