With new renovations, Sloan Museum of Discovery strives to be more inclusive

FLINT, Michigan — On Saturday, July 16, over 2,000 Genesee County residents attended the Sloan Museum of Discovery's official public reopening day. After five years of planning and construction, the institution welcomed large crowds eager to see and experience the new building and its exhibits.

After decades of displaying the same main exhibits that only told part of the area’s history, Sloan is now sharing other stories from diverse groups. This includes the history of the first inhabitants of Flint and the accomplishments of several modern figures such as Claressa Shields

Museum Director Todd Slisher explains, “from the first week, we really engaged with the community to try to bring everyone in on this project. We did a lot of listening groups and community sessions.”

The initial community feedback process lasted one year. When building plans began, the organization added several advisory boards to ensure the new museum would be more inclusive. Those groups were comprised of different community members who were interested in those areas, according to Slisher, and they continued to give feedback throughout the whole process. 

"To us, it was important for everyone to be involved." - Todd Slisher, Sloan Museum of Discovery Director
“They wanted more diverse community stories. They wanted the story of the old neighborhood, different people and different groups,” Slisher said about the feedback Sloan received from their surveys. 

Helping to lead that campaign was Jerome Threlkeld, Community Engagement Coordinator, who was able to outreach and bring more people in to get their thoughts and opinions. “I think that’s really helped,” said Slisher on Threlkeld’s efforts, “and I think you can see the difference in walking around the building today.”

Other strides toward Sloan’s across-the-board inclusion extend to the diversifying of board members and new employees. Through non-traditional hiring methods, the organization has been able to reach a larger mix of qualified candidates than previously held. 
Jordan Ewell of Flint, pictured with his son and niece at Sloan's opening day.
“Stuff like this is something the city needs to revive it and bring it back and help the reputation grow," said Jordan Ewell of Flint who attended the opening day with his son and niece.

“I thought it was important to bring the kids out here so that people can see that we have stuff to do here for the kids.” Ewell highly advises other parents to “bring your kids here whenever you have a chance, ASAP.”

Sloan has also eliminated visitor fees in recent years which provides more Genesee County residents access to the new facility. The free admission resulted from an arts and culture mileage that was passed in 2018.

Now patrons can spend that extra cash on beverages and snacks from the museum’s Coffee Beanery – an almost 50-year-old café franchise in Michigan. 

Beanery was chosen above any other national café because of its huge lunch menu and foods that may appeal to the younger audience such as pizza and hotdogs. Slisher predicts that Sloan will attract approximately 80-90,000 visitors annually throughout Genesee and surrounding counties. 

Janice Sova, who visited the new facility with family and friends said, “I think they did a really good job connecting the education piece whether it's virtually or in person.” Sova continued by illustrating how the new exhibits, “are all very relevant to the time and talking about the topics that are going on now.” 

“It's a drastic difference from the old Sloan to the new Sloan.” - Janice Sova, pictured with her family.Although the updated building is designed primarily for youth visitors, it will also cater to adult patrons. The museum will soon begin hosting its new history lecture series as well as a 21+ night on certain Wednesdays of each month. 

“This is a different Sloan,” says Slisher whose staff members and residents agree. 
“This is such a gem, not just for Flint but for all of Michigan,” says Anne Mancour, Marketing Manager. “There's nothing else like this. So, to be a part of it when it opened is exciting.”

From the historical aspect of the museum, Mancour states, “this is a museum where the curator was very sincere and mindful about showing representation from the entire community in Flint from the beginning to now.”

For more information on Sloan Museum of Discovery, visit: sloanlongway.org
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Read more articles by Omoro Collins.