Tag Archives: Lindy Hoyer

Lindy Hoyer

November 3, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A goal of any children’s museum is to inspire. So, it’s no surprise that phrases like “No one is you, and that’s your power” and “Focus on the good” are written on a wall behind the desk of the executive director of Omaha Children’s Museum.

What is surprising is that Lindy Hoyer’s office also has a framed front-page Omaha World-Herald story about the Titanic sinking—hardly the stuff of inspiration. But for those familiar with the museum’s history, it makes perfect sense.

The Titanic exhibit was one of the first that ran when Hoyer assumed her role as executive director. The exhibit opened in 2004 (Hoyer became executive director in 2002), and it signaled Hoyer’s plans for the museum. The exhibits would be ambitious, and sometimes not the stuff of standard children’s museum fare. For the Titanic exhibit, Hoyer knew Mark Lach, the designer of the Titanic exhibit. Lach asked Hoyer if she knew a place in Omaha that would be interested in hosting it.

“Before you look at any place, come look at what I got here,” Hoyer says she told him.

Since Hoyer took over in 2002, yearly attendance has steadily increased. Their recent exhibit, Dinosaur Safari, freely encouraged kids to climb up a dehorned Triceratops, mine for fossils in a free-flowing water channel, and climb in a jeep that looks uncannily like the brightly colored one in Jurassic Park. Families who missed the prehistoric fun can expect the giant models to return in the form of a new (different) exhibit in the coming years.

Animatronic dinosaurs span both phases of Hoyer’s time at the museum. An earlier version came to Omaha during her first stint with the museum. A few decades later, under her leadership, the museum owns the extinct beasts—which are available for museums around the country to rent.

Hoyer (originally from Eagle, Nebraska) graduated from Doane University in 1986 with degrees in English and theater. She was offered a job as an administrative assistant at the museum shortly after she graduated. She still has her badge with that title.

Between 1986 and 1994, Hoyer saw the museum move to its current location at 20th Street and St. Mary’s Avenue, and her title went from assistant to manager of exhibits. In 1994, Hoyer was approached by Marilyn Gorham, then executive director of Lincoln Children’s Museum.

At the time, Hoyer felt her career with Omaha Children’s Museum had reached its growth potential. Gorham offered Hoyer the position of director of operations at Lincoln Children’s Museum. From 1994 to 2002, Hoyer worked on exhibit development and also began doing marketing, grant writing, and project management under Gorham’s watch.

“All along, [Gorham] was grooming me to take over. There was just a monkey wrench that was thrown into it,” Hoyer says.

That wrench was Hoyer getting married. A year before the wedding, she moved back to Omaha, which required a daily commute to Lincoln. Then in 2002, an irresistible opportunity opened up—a vacancy for the executive director of Omaha Children’s Museum.

“I always loved living in Omaha. I always felt that Omaha Children’s Museum, at that time [in 2002] had not reached its full potential,” Hoyer says. She knew because of the many Omaha visitors who came to Lincoln specifically to go to the children’s museum.

She was determined to make Omaha Children’s Museum a go-to place for locals and out-of-town visitors. Her work seems to have paid off. Last year, the museum reached a record of almost 317,000 visitors.

“Omaha’s community wanted and had a desire to have a good children’s museum, Hoyer says. “And I’m always one who’s up for a challenge. Give me a puzzle to put together, and I’ll work on it until I solve it.”

Visit ocm.org for more information about Omaha Children’s Museum.

This story was printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Omaha Children’s Museum

May 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This year, the Omaha Children’s Museum celebrates 40 years of bringing joy, education, and imagination to Omaha youth.

The museum has come a long way in 40 years, from starting out in the back of a station wagon to now being one of the biggest children’s museums in the world. The museum has seen major renovations, countless exhibits, and hundreds of thousands of children. Last year the museum set an annual record for attendance at 302,000.   

Executive Director Lindy Hoyer says the Omaha Children’s Museum offers a safe space for children to learn and grow.

“That time [at the museum], where kids are engaging and exploring in different types of activity is developing them as a whole person,” Hoyer says.

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Hoyer’s fervor for the museum is matched only by her love for education, and making children the best they can be. She would love to formally claim that bringing children to the museum guarantees they turn out to be geniuses, but nonetheless she will not.

“I don’t know that we can be so bold as to say that, but I wholeheartedly believe they are going to become better people, and as successful as they are destined to be by utilizing what we have to offer here,” Hoyer says.

Justin Rader is 20 years old now, but when he was younger his grandmother took him to the Omaha Children’s Museum regularly.

“The most memorable experience I had going there was when they had a dinosaur exhibit upstairs,” Rader says. “I was getting to an age where I was a little hesitant on going to the museum, because all the kids there where younger, but all my reservations about the exhibit quickly diminished as I climbed up the stairs—bumping elbows with eager kids older and younger than me.”

Rader may not have been the only young person feeling a little old for a “children’s museum.” According to Hoyer, the museum has noticed their clientele is often a bit older than their intended target audience.

“For many years we have focused on activities for an audience of children who are in the early childhood age,” Hoyer says. “We are seeing more and more that we are serving children much older than that. You’ll probably start to see us adding more things of interest [for the older age group].”

Brooke Criswell, 19, was also a recurring customer at the Omaha Children’s Museum as a youngster. Her mother would take her and just one other friend whenever she could.

“I loved seeing all the different exhibits,” Criswell says. “I just remember really having my imagination being broadened, and having a day with my friend.”

The Omaha Children’s Museum has been located at 20th Street and St. Mary’s Avenue since 1989. The facility itself is more than 60,000 square feet, which puts it in the top 15 percent of children’s museums worldwide. Even with such a massive space, Hoyer says the museum is bursting at the seams. “We have got some challenges ahead for what we are going to do about supporting the growth we are seeing,” she says.

Hoyer says they are considering an expansion of the current building, and potentially even looking at a new site altogether, so that the Omaha Children’s Museum can celebrate another 40 years of bringing joy, education, and imagination to youngsters.

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