Peoria Riverfront Museum celebrates one year & looks to raise next year's attendance

By WEEK Reporter

October 20, 2013 Updated Oct 20, 2013 at 11:46 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The Peoria Riverfront Museum is one of the city's largest monetary investments. The project cost Peoria well over $65,000,000 and includes a state of the art theatre and more. Sunday Peoria Riverfront Museum celebrated its one year anniversary and organizers say its an inviting milestone.

"We wanted to introduce the museums to the public because we find out that once people come, they really like it," said Debbie Ritschel, Interim CEO.

The museum offered free admission and parking. Guests could enjoy many of the interactive educational exhibits. Peoria resident, Sandra Iadipallo brought her two kids to the event.

"There's different interests in a family, and i feel like this place can adapt to all those interests," said Iadipallo.

As for the museums' interests, it was to tackle what did not go as well in the past year. 136,000 guests attended for its opening year, but still more than 40,000 guests short of their expected 180,000.

The museum also went through a change in leadership. In May, Debbie Ritschel was named interim CEO, and former CEO Jim Richerson was out.

For the upcoming year organizers created new plans to raise attendance for the upcoming year.

"We're looking at new initiatives on how to invite people here and how to really speak to the people we want to have come here to the museum," said Ritschel. "What we need to do better is social media. We're having someone new come in."

"I think we need to make things more interactive," said Dave Ransburg, Peoria Riverfront Museum's Chairman of the Board. "There's a lot of interactive stuff for the kids but not for the adults."

The museum has been on a search for a new CEO. It plans to raise attendence through social media, better signage and new interactive exhibits.

Organizers did not want to let go of the quality learning that it offers.

"That's really what our museum is really known for--to be able to touch and feel and be part of what you're learning," said Ritschel.