YouZeum opening bumped back to March

Tuesday, January 8, 2008 | 7:33 p.m. CST; updated 3:10 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 10, 2010

COLUMBIA — The opening of the YouZeum has been pushed back another two months, said Executive Director Gwen Robbins.

In September, museum officials said they expected to open its doors in January. Now, Robbins said, the planned opening is for sometime in March. The latest delay — the third since the YouZeum name and logo were unveiled in March 2005 — is a result of the computer programming for the interactive exhibits taking longer than expected, Robbins said.

Money is also still an issue. “We were really pleased with gifts we received at the end of the year,” Robbins said. But the YouZeum is still fundraising, working toward a goal of $800,000, she said.

Previous delays in the YouZeum’s opening date stemmed from the work being done locally.

“We could have spent a lot more money and hired an outside firm,” Robbins said, “but it would have cost us about three million dollars more.”

Robbins said progress on the YouZeum, an interactive health and science museum, has exceeded her expectations. “It took us a little longer, but it’s more reflective of the community and is completely unique to Columbia,” Robbins said.

Robbins has said she expects the YouZeum will draw 60,000 visitors in its first year. Admission prices will range from $5 for children to $7 for adults.

Among the work being completed now, Robbins said, are usability tests for the computer programs being used in the interactive exhibits. These tests provide the YouZeum with feedback from average users on how well the computer programs are operating.

“We are in the testing and tweaking phase,” she said, “testing to make sure they work easily.”

All the artwork is done, Robbins said, which includes photographic murals by Ed Ailor; a sculpture in the YouZeum’s diner by MU students Angie Ellegood and Michael Mori; and a tile relief of human bodies by three second grade classes at Lee Elementary School, led by art teacher Ann Mehr. There is also a bronze sculpture that is completed and is waiting to be installed on the YouZeum’s front steps.

Mike Milosovich owns The Forge and Vine, 119 S. Seventh St., a restaurant directly behind the YouZeum. He said he agrees with the decision to involve the community in the building process. “As a local business owner, the more involved the community is, the stronger it is going to be,” he said.

After watching the building progress over the years, he is anticipating the opening of the YouZeum, which will feature hands-on displays, participatory exhibits and educational classes. The father of an 18-month-old son, Milosovich plans on visiting the YouZeum when it opens.

“I will probably go see what it’s all about and what they have to offer,” he said.

Robbins said “literally hundreds” of community members have contributed to the project, which was estimated to cost $9.6 million.

“When people get in here,” she said, “they are going to know it’s worth the wait.”

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