Amazement Square, a downtown Lynchburg institution, was nominated for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, awarded annually to five museums and five libraries across the United States.
The children’s museum is one of 33 finalists, competing against more than 17,000 museums across the country for the nomination, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
“This nomination is about what we are doing outside our four walls. We have a huge outreach into the community,” Amazement Square Director of Marketing Ashleigh Karol said.
The IMLS website states that the national medal honors outstanding institutions that make exceptional contributions to their communities and demonstrate innovative approaches to public service. According to an IMLS press release, the national medal is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a museum or library for its exemplary service.
“It’s a great recognition,” Karol said. “The medal would open the doors not only for more funding to start more programs, but will also bring in existing programs (that) would want to work with a national medal winner.”
Amazement Square places a large focus on the Virginia Standards of Learning and works with local school systems to provide a hands-on educational resource. According to Karol, the museum utilizes Amazement Square for the friendly environment and the learning experience in order to maintain a strong relationship with Lynchburg schools.
The museum is closed on Mondays to the public, according to Karol, but it is open for the Laurel Regional School. Laurel Regional is a special needs school, and various grants have allowed Amazement Square the opportunity to provide adaptive technology that allows special needs students to participate in the activities offered.
The nomination brings national recognition and awareness to a community like Lynchburg, according to Karol.
“This says a lot about the community, because we run on their support,” Karol said. “We made a commitment to downtown revitalization — we made the choice when we opened our doors in the late ‘90s in an old building downtown, which spurred other businesses to settle there as well.”
Karol is excited to be a part of an organization that has been nominated for the national medal.
“(The National Medal) is like winning an Oscar for being one of the best museums in the country,” Karol said.
The winners of the award will be notified in mid-April, and the awards ceremony will take place in early May.