Frontline Responders: Liz Wilson’s MCM-Meridian legacy
MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) -A year ago, the Mississippi Children’s Museum-Meridian brought an experience like no other to the Queen City. Now, one Executive Director who helped start it all says goodbye but leaves behind a legacy that no one will ever forget.
“I can’t help but play,” said MCM-Meridian Executive Director, Liz Wilson.
The vision of opening MCM-Meridian, a satellite campus of the statewide Mississippi Children’s Museum all began through the dedicated work of community volunteers, Kim Bowers, Kimberly Denison, and Executive Director Liz Wilson in 2014.
“We reached out to our statewide leader. The Mississippi museum in Jackson, who at the time was 5 years old, hoping to get some wisdom and pointers as to how we could bring a resource as excellent as that to east Mississippi and to the children of east Mississippi,” said Wilson.
Over the years, Wilson’s dedication to improving the quality of life of East Mississippi’s children brought the vision of a state-of-the-art early educational resource to Meridian.
“We had that first meeting in 2015 actually and then we started our capital campaign, and it seems fast and furious and nonstop since then, " said Wilson.
Despite the obstacles of a worldwide pandemic and heavy Spring storms, the museum opened safely to the public on March 27, 2021.
“I think coming out of COVID we learned how important an institution is like this. Even more important than maybe we first realized. The importance of community, and the importance of wonder and creativity and imagination and collaborative play, “said Wilson.
And that playful spirit can be felt in one popular “fiery” spot in the museum.
“The Red Hot is a favorite. Here they get to take out your order, you get to check out at the register, and you can have today’s specials and create new menus. And then you get to cook it all up with your friends and serve your wonderful patrons as they come in. And one of the reasons I think that is such a memorable experience for children and families is because it doesn’t matter if you intended to or not. If you’re in the space, you’re going to be part of this experience. You will be waited upon, you will be forced to order, you will be forced to pay and if you don’t have money, they will give you money to pay for their special that day, and then they’re going to clean it all up. It is really a space that transcends generations,” said Wilson.
Since its opening, the Children’s Museum has welcomed over 80,000 children and families through its doors from forty-three states, seventy-three Mississippi counties, and two foreign countries. And has received statewide recognition for its tourism draw.
“We get to introduce them to the jewels of our community and hope that we inspire them to stay longer in the community and learn more about Meridian itself,” said Wilson.
Liz’s enthusiasm for the museum’s mission has established a solid foundation for MCM-Meridian and has prepared the museum for future success as she passes the torch to Barbara Zeller.
Zeller has lived in the Queen City for 8 years and has experience of working in the nonprofit world.
“I am so inspired by Liz and the entire team here at the children’s museum and I’m really humbled to be able to come behind her and continue this good work and continue to provide a place of excellence and a lifelong joy of learning for children and also to continue taking fun seriously, which is what we do here at the museum,” said Zeller.
“I am very sad to leave this place it is a place that is near and dear to my heart but I’m very thrilled that Barbara Zeller and our amazing team is already hard at work looking at what that next thing is for the museum and what the next year looks like and the year after that and the year after that,” said Wilson.
Wilson said over the course of the past year the museum has implemented summer camps and programming in the community. She said there are plans for new educational programs and partnerships with educators and parents in the near future.
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