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Museums Make Creative Meeting Venues

Having after-hours meetings at museums and other attractions allows attendees to enjoy all sorts of behind-the-scenes and hands-on opportunities. Your groups can pet a penguin, build a robot or drive a 100-year-old car at these meeting-friendly attractions.


Corning Museum of Glass

Corning, New York

During a meeting at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, attendees are surrounded by 3,500 years of history — very breakable history.

Several dedicated event spaces are available during the museum’s business hours. As a theater, the museum’s auditorium can seat 750 people and includes a full stage and state-of-the-art audiovisual system. It can also be used for dinner or receptions. The Glass Market Cafe, which is set behind the glass walls of the museum’s facade, can host dinners for about 120 people, and the seminar room in the Rakow Research Library can seat 32 for dinner or 60 for a reception.

Beyond those dedicated meeting spaces, the museum is available for after-hours events. Groups have access to many other areas, including some of the glass galleries, according to Scott Ignaszewski, event planning and production manager.

The admissions lobby with its huge Dale Chihuly sculpture is one of the museum’s most-rented spaces, he said. The Innovation Center is an interactive science and technology gallery that features a glass floor, a tower of casserole dishes and a sculpture of suspended windshields. Unlike some galleries that house more delicate exhibits, the Innovation Center is “open to pretty much any group,” Ignaszewski added.

Daily demonstrations include the dramatic “Hot Glass Show.” For meetings or private events, the museum offers live glass-blowing shows, group demonstrations and hands-on classes, said museum event planner Kara Smith. During the “Properties Show,” volunteers go on stage to assist experts in demonstrating the physical properties of glass — how one piece can be shattered with a pin, while another can’t be broken with a sledgehammer.

During the GlassLab design program, attendees work with a glassmaker to design and make their own creations. Over at The Studio, a renowned glassmaking facility and school, groups can sign up for “Fun With Glass,” a two-hour class that’s great for breakout sessions, Smith said.


Gilmore Car Museum

Hickory Corners, Michigan

There are few places where you can drive a Model T. But at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, about 15 miles northeast of Kalamazoo, event attendees can get behind the wheel of the antique Ford and other historic automobiles.

The museum’s 90-acre campus is dotted with more than a dozen buildings, including a re-created Shell filling station, a replica train depot and the Blue Moon Diner. The Gilmore Heritage Center houses the museum’s main exhibit galleries as well as a 2,480-square-foot hall that can be divided into two smaller event rooms and a 60-seat multimedia theater. A group can have a reception in a gallery, move into the theater for a presentation, and eat dinner in the event halls, where “you still have some very cool stuff to look at it,” said Jay Follis, director of marketing.

The Steam Barn houses some of the museum’s earliest automobiles, including an 1899 steam-powered “locomobile,” and can host events for about 70 people. The Carriage House can accommodate about 60 people, who are “right in there with the cars,” said Follis.

The museum is available after hours for meetings and events, and attendees can even drive a few of the “premium automobiles, right off display,” Follis said, including a 1954 or 1958 Corvette, a 1950 Cadillac convertible or a late 1950s Lincoln convertible. Guests can take the vintage cars for a spin on the property’s three miles of paved road.

“We drive them right off the showroom floor and onto the road,” Follis said.

Museum staff can also pick up attendees in a vintage car or a double-decker bus and drop them off at their meeting site, Follis said. Another popular option for smaller groups is the Model T driving school. Groups break into teams to learn how to drive the cars, which is no easy feat.

“There’s no stick shift, you have three pedals and two levers on the steering wheel,” Follis said. “You have to really give it some thought.”