Sunday, November 13, 2005

Peoria Plans Big Museum Push

The Associated Press has a good piece today on Peoria's grand plans for a new museum.

By decade's end, one stop in downtown Peoria could land you at the controls of a giant Caterpillar Inc. earth-moving machine, behind the plate calling strikes at a high school baseball game or on a time-bending walk along the Illinois River dating back to the ice age.

All those could be part of an eclectic mix of historic, hands-on and high-tech fixtures at a proposed $100 million museum complex near the river's edge in this central Illinois city.

There's a reason better than just civic pride behind the idea.

Museum and tourism officials predict a hefty tourism payback - about $14 million a year - as they scurry to raise money that would put the facility on track to open in 2009...

Officials estimate 350,000 visitors a year would flock to Peoria-based Caterpillar's first worldwide visitor center, the first Illinois High School Association museum and hall of fame and new facilities for Peoria's Lakeview Museum and African American Hall of Fame.

What's driving the plan is this:

Culture has been a catalyst for cities from Denver to Tampa as U.S. museum visits surged from 486 million in 1989 to about 860 million today, pumping about $220 billion into the nation's economy annually, said Ed Able, president and CEO of the American Association of Museums.

The popularity rise parallels a shift over the last two decades from stodgy, static displays at museums to high-tech and hands-on exhibits that have made such facilities "intellectually accessible," Able said.

Here's a link to a synopsis of the plan. The headline above links to the main story.

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