'The third place of learning': Please Touch Museum launches $5 million campaign to reopen in 2021

ByEric Moody via WPVI logo
Thursday, September 24, 2020
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One of Philadelphia's iconic, beloved museums is fighting to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Please Touch Museum plans to reopen in the year 2021, the task will not be easy. - Eric Moody reports:

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- One of Philadelphia's iconic, beloved museums is fighting to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Please Touch Museum plans to reopen in the year 2021, the task will not be easy.

Although forced to cut a large portion of its staff and cease operations for the remainder of 2020, the Please Touch Museum is no stranger to adversities.

While on the verge of bankruptcy decades ago, the museum has since recovered from city fundraising efforts.

Courtesy: OCF Reality. 208-12 N. 21st Street - Former location of the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.

Since then, they've moved from their old Center City location into their new home along Memorial Hall on Fairmount Park.

But the pandemic has made it very difficult for operation for a place that's titled "please touch."

"The Giant Company has given a remarkable accelerator to our campaign," said Patricia Wellenbach, who is the president and CEO of the Please Touch Museum.

The Giant Company has stepped in to donate $1.2 million to help the museum launch its "Creating The Future of Play" campaign.

A $5 million initiative that's designed to support the museum with all its needs, as it prepares to welcome children and families back in 2021.

"$1.2 million in a $5 million campaign is a tremendous investment in the museum and the future of play for children," Wellenbach added. "We're just delighted they said 'yes let's move forward.'"

Wellenbach believes this gift will transform, in her opinion, the most important space in the museum which is the marketplace.

'Renderings of The Market.' - New Marketplace design set for the Please Touch Museum in 2021.

"The marketplace came from 21st Street, it was a part of the original Please Touch Museum. Kids have loved it. Adults now have children and tell their children when they come here, about when they came to 21st Street and they played in that market, said Wellenbach.

Wellenbach says this will give the museum the opportunity to tell the story of what food means, not just in the grocery store, but in families and communities.

"We're in the middle of a pandemic and food has taken on a whole new level of meaning for everyone," she said.

Nicholas Bertram, The Giant Company president and CEO says from his experience attending the museum, the pandemic has given him a broader vision, in where his company can help assist.

"The market place exhibit is a fun exhibit, I've been there personally," said Bertram. "I've taken my kids, my nephews and it's cool to be able to help reimagine that and bring more than just the grocery store experience."

Bertram says the full food ecosystem, understanding agriculture, sustainability and food insecurity are things he believes can be fun food kids but also educate them.

The two parts of this campaign consist of $3.5 million which aims to bring back staff that was laid off during budget cuts amid the pandemic.

The other $1.5 million will help create an endowment for museum learning that will be announced in the coming weeks.

"To be closed for almost a year, that's millions of dollars of revenue that we didn't bring in," said Wellenbach. "The opportunity and the promise in the pandemic is that we are going to continue, to be a place of joy and learning."

Wellenbach says she and her team aims to position the Please Touch Museum as what she calls, 'the third place of learning.'

"Children learn at home, they learn at school and they learn at the Please Touch Museum," she added. "We're going to be here for the long-term and Giant is helping make sure of that."