440 W Short St
Lexington KY 40507
Contact Information
Address 440 W Short St
Lexington, KY 40507
Phone (859) 258-3253
Contact Name Lee Ellen Martin
At A Glance
IRS Ruling Year 1994
Former Names
Lexington Children's Museum
Other ways to donate, support, or volunteer

Donations can be sent to the Explorium of Lexington by check to 440 W. Main Street, Lexington, KY 40507, phone (859-258-3253) or via our website at www.explorium.com. If you think you have an item that might be of interest to us, please call us at 859-258-3253. Donations are used to further our mission, provide free admission to children who could not otherwise come, upgrade and install new exhibits, provide hands-on learning experiences for children and keep admission costs low.


Volunteers are always welcome. Volunteer opportunities include assisting visitors in the Museum (training provided upon arrival); aiding education staff with programs and preparation; helping office staff; assisting exhibit staff with general maintenance and handywork.

Financial Summary
Revenue vs Expenses - All Years
Expense Breakdown - Recent Year
Mission Statement

Explorium of Lexington creates a fun and dynamic hands-on learning environment that inspires imagination and curiosity.

Background Statement

In 1987, a group of inspired citizens presented the idea of a children’s museum to Lexington Mayor Scotty Baesler and future Mayor Pam Miller. With the assistance of Lord Cultural Resources, a consulting firm in Toronto, the city began serious planning for the Lexington Children’s Museum. The site selection committee considered several sites and chose the current location in Victorian Square. Since first opening its doors in 1990 the Museum has hosted over two million visitors.

Renamed Explorium of Lexington in 2005, the facility is a success with both children and adults. Attendance averages 65,000 visitors annually, and we serve an additional 10,000 with outreach activities in the community. Explorium serves a much broader area than just Fayette County. We have hosted guests from over 114 different Kentucky counties, 45 states, and other countries.

There are nine discovery zones that focus on Kentucky river and horses, health nutrition, the community around us, the bubble zone, space and flight, insects, dinosaurs, homes from other countries, and a special area for toddlers to discover the wonders of their world. Within these zones, hands-on exhibits encourage children to learn by doing. To compliment the exhibits, there are a host of programs that teach the concepts of the exhibits in cool and unique ways. From self-carving pumpkins (a chemistry program) to creating art to match a story (preschool literacy and color recognition) to Explorium Olympics (cultural program), children leave wanting to learn more. 

As the exhibits and outreach have grown, we have started and expanded some exciting programs. Our annual Museum Go Round features hands-on science and art experiences, artists under the age of 18 exhibiting and selling their work. Spring break and summer camps teach science, art and culture for pre-school and elementary age children. The Explorium provide children’s activities at many local fairs and festivals, as well as hands-on science activities for local elementary school’s science nights. For school groups that cannot come to the Explorium, we offer Field Trips To Go that provide interactive and fun programs that compliment the classroom curriculum.

For 29 years, the Explorium has provided fun, education and entertainment to families in Kentucky. Many of our current parents remembering coming to the Explorium as a child and enjoy sharing their fond childhood memories with their children. The Explorium is a local family tradition.

Impact Statement

The top accomplishments for FY 2019 include:

1. designing, constructing, and debuting two (2) new exhibits including Zoom Tubes and Giant Light Bright. Thanks to our sponsors Suter Mechanical and The Honorable Order of the Kentucky Colonels, the Explorium was able to build our new Zoom Tubes and Light Bright exhibits respectively
2. large increase in summer camp attendance and revenue
3. implementing a new online platform to support mobile bidding for our annual It's Your Night fundraising event. 
Last year, the Explorium had visitors from 97 of Kentucky’s counties and 47 of the 50 states.   The Explorium is also increasing our presence in the city.  You will find many of our portable exhibits and programs and fairs and festivals in Lexington and the surrounding counties.  Finally, the increased activity has led to an increase in earned revenues.  This increase coupled with better oversight of the expenses is stabilizing the organizations finances.

Three goals for 2020 are:

1. Renovate one (1) large gallery space

2. Expand our Traveling Trunks and Field Trip To Go programs

3. Redesign our birthday party structure  
CEO/Executive Director Statement

The Explorium of Lexington is important to central Kentucky as a place for families to play and learn together. With family time being at a premium, the Explorium’s unique atmosphere of education mixed with play provides parents with a fun outlet for their children that also encourages discovery and curiosity. Parents come to the Explorium and feel good about the quality time spent interacting with their children.


The Association of Children’s Museums sites a study by the University of Illinois that found, “children feel bored as much as 50% of the time while at school or doing their homework.”  The ACM goes on to point out that children’s museums are redefining how we teach art, science, mathematics and humanities. By making the learning fun at the Explorium, children are inspired to keep investigating and creating.  


The Explorium of Lexington is also dedicated to being a partner with our schools and teachers. Recently, the Kentucky Department of Education’s Core Curriculum Standards were applied to all exhibits and programs offered. This helps teachers and chaperones easily identify what concept each exhibit is teaching and how it correlates to the classroom curriculum. The experience at the Explorium is designed to enhance what children are learning in school and at home. Because not all schools can visit the Explorium, our Field Trip To Go programs provides an interactive experience that our staff takes to schools. 


Fun at the Explorium equals education. It is our goal to instill a life-long love of learning and being curious about the world around us giving children the confidence to explore new ideas, problems, and concepts. 

Board Chair Statement

This year has been filled with challenges and successes. This year, the Explorium took on a major task of creating, designing, and debuting the first travelling exhibit owned by the Explorium.  Saddles Up! The Versatile Arabian Horse is a partnership with Markel Insurance, the Pyramid Society, and the Arabian Horsemen’s Distress Fund to teach the public about the history, importance, and versatility of the Arabian Horse.  After the debut in Lexington, the exhibit will be available to be rented by other children’s museums or venues. 

The Explorium has had many successes in fundraising and will open at least three (3) new permanent exhibits in FY 2015. Not only will these exhibits bring new educational and fun experiences to our visitors, they will also encourage more repeat business. Local visitors enjoy multiple visits to the Explorium when our programs and exhibits stay fresh and updated.

The Board of Directors has been in a rebuilding phase, and added six (6) new board members last year, who have added a variety of expertise, knowledge, and contacts to the board. The Board is currently in a recruitment phase and plans to add four (4) new board members with varying backgrounds, contacts, networks, and skills. These new dedicated volunteers are already proving to be useful in both expertise and resources.

This last year, weather a challenge for the Explorium. Between the snowy winter and moderate and shortened summer (due to the school calendar), attendance was affected. We made lemonade out of lemons, by offering snow day camps. When Fayette County has a snow day, the Explorium opens at 8 to provide a snow day camp from 8-5:30. This was met with much enthusiasm and is especially helpful to parents working downtown.

The work of the Board has been fulfilling when I receive notes from children that say, “I don’t like the Explorium, I LOVE it!” We want children to love the Explorium because they in turn love to learn. I am amazed at what I learn when I am there about other cultures, bubble science, horses, the brain and more! I am dedicated to the mission of the Explorium because I like to encourage children to be curious, to discover by doing, and to encourage the habit of life-long learning. When I see parents and children playing and learning together, I know that the work, we as board members do, is important and our community deserves the best children’s museum we can provide.

Service Categories
Secondary Organization Category Education / Elementary & Secondary Schools
Geographic Areas Served
In 2018, Explorium of Lexington had visitors from 97 Kentucky counties, 47 states, and several foreign countries.  The bulk of visitors come from central, eastern and southeastern Kentucky. 
Board Chair
Board Chair Mr. Gene Guinn
Company Affiliation Clear Channel Radio
Term June 2014 to Dec 2015
Board Members
Ms. Jackie Allen-LongCommunity Action CouncilVoting
Mr. Matthew CourtneyMadison County Public SchoolsVoting
Mr. Gene GuinnClear Channel RadioVoting
Mrs. Shonna HammondFayette County Public SchoolsVoting
Ms. Emily LaneBingham McCutcheonVoting
Mrs. Aimee MillerCommunity VolunteerVoting
Mr. Brent O'NeillKentucky American Water CompanyVoting
Ms. Alex TerryCentral Bank and TrustVoting
Mr. Marty TuckerFrost Brown ToddVoting
Board Demographics - Ethnicity. Add number
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 9
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 4
Female 5
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 4
Board Term Limits 2
Board Meeting Attendance % 70%
Written Board Selection Criteria? Yes
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 100%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 11
Standing Committees
Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
CEO Comments Our Board currently lacks diversity.  We recently had two board members representing diverse backgrounds rotate off the board.  We are currently discussing board  membership with members of the community with diverse backgrounds.  This should be resolved by the end of 2014. 
CEO/Executive Director
Executive Director Mrs. Lee Ellen Martin
Term Start Feb 2012
Email executive@explorium.com

Lee Ellen Martin is a veteran of non-profit management. Beginning her career in Louisville, she worked in development, marketing, and front of house operations for the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Louisville. After moving to Lexington, she worked at the Lexington Children’s Museum (now Explorium of Lexington) for five years in development, marketing, budgeting, and front of house operations. For two years, she also served as Associate Director. She then went to Hospice of the Bluegrass as the Public Relations and Annual Giving Coordinator and was promoted to the Director of Planned and Major Gifts. She then worked at United Way of the Bluegrass as Director of Planned and Major Gifts. In all of her positions, she increased contributed revenue raising over $20,000,000 combined for these institutions. She left Untied Way and opened a fundraising consulting business in 2008 and has worked for a variety of clients auditing their current fundraising efforts, devising a plan for increased contributions, coaching and mentoring staff, and training board members. She is a frequent speaker at non-profit conferences on a variety of fundraising topics. She has been back at the Explorium as Executive Director since February 2012. Since her arrival, attendance has increased 20%; full-time staff has increased from 1 to 5; and membership, birthday parties and group visits have also increased. Programs have been re-invigorated, several exhibits that were in storage are back out for visitors to enjoy, and three new exhibits have opened. 

Full Time Staff 4
Part Time Staff 6
Volunteers 50
Contractors 1
Retention Rate 100%
Management Reports to Board? Yes
Staff Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 11
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Staff Demographics - Gender
Male 1
Female 10
Unspecified 0
Former CEOs
Mr. Mike Gilmore2012 - Feb
Ms. Sara Nees Holcomb-
Senior Staff
Title Education Coordinator

Melissa Brown holds Masters of Arts in Teaching from Eastern Kentucky University specializing in the Gifted and Talented area.  She has been with the Explorium for one year and is the liaison to teachers, teaches enrichment activities for school groups, and preschool programs.  Her background is not only in classroom teaching, but also in coaching gymnastics and dance.  Her college training coupled with her practical experience coaching children has made her a hit with both teachers and the children.

Title Community Outreach Coordinator

Morgan Brotherton graduated with from Savannah College of Art and Design and has a Masters in Education from University of Louisville. Serving as the Community Outreach Coordinator, she plans, presents and teaches community events, Field Trips To Go, and museum camps. She recruits, trains and places volunteers. She also works as part of the education department and creates Kentucky standards-based group enrichment lessons and activities for teachers. Morgan also is a jewelry designer and makes custom pieces of jewelry for a wide variety of clientele.

Title Program Coordinator/Curator

Catie Richwine is a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Art History. Interning here spring of 2012, she was responsible for development and presentation of programs. Over 58 programs are presented monthly and must vary according to subject matter, target age, media used and a wide variety of other issues. She was hired in August of 2012 to continue the program coordination but also to serve as curator. Catie also presents many of the programs frequently teaching a multitude of subjects through art projects. She also curates exhibits from exhibit design and dressing to repairs and maintenance. She is also working toward matching exhibits to Kentucky core standards so that teachers can easily know what exhibits and programs match what standards.

Formal Evaluations
CEO Formal Evaluation Yes
CEO/Executive Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
NonManagement Formal Evaluation Yes
Non Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
CEO Comments
The Explorium reviewed the the personnel handbook and made significant changes to that document with outside professional assistance.  The Board and Executive Director held a retreat to develop a new two year strategic plan which is reviewed monthly at board meetings to ensure progress is being made. 

The Galleries are two floors of hands-on exhibits. The exhibits are divided into ten (10) discovery zones including: 

·       Keeping Current – a Kentucky River replica.

·       Hold Your Horses – several exhibits where children learn about horses in the Horse Capital of the World.

·       Explorium Way – an area where children explore different professions including a doctor, veterinarian, and farmer.

·       Health and Fitness – children have fun learning about their bodies, exercise and nutrition.

·       Wonder Woods – a special area for the three and under crowd.

·       Bubble Zone – a room full of great bubbles and bubble science.

·       Flight and Space – including a flight simulator and the moon.

·       Bone Zone – an area to discover about dinosaurs.

·       Small World – children learn about exotic and local insects.

·       Homes – homes, clothes and housewares from other countries for children to explore. 

Budget 491000
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Museum Education
Population Served Infants to Preschool (under age 5), Children Only (5 - 14 years), Families
Program Short Term Success Over the next year, two new exhibits are planned to be installed once funding is secured. A courtoom and a recycling truck will be added to the Explorium Way discovery zone. Children are fascinated with jobs and by letting the children experience different careers, it sparks their curiosity about what they will be when they grow up. The continual addition of interactive exhibits will help to increase our membership by 10% and our attendance by 10% also. New exhibits not only encourage new visitors, but also keep members coming back, as well. 
Program Long term Success


Long term success means the galleries at the Explorium are dynamic, lively and interactive exhibits that delight children and their families. The exhibits will be a combination of high-tech, big-impact exhibits with simple, fun and educational activities. There will be a constant refreshment of favorite exhibits mixed with additions of new exhibits to keep the Museum fresh. The annual Museum attendance will be well over 100,000 and the Explorium will be a must see for tourists as well as local families. The Museum will be sharing its unique brand of mixing learning with fun creating the habit of life-long learning for generations to come.


Program Success Monitored By

Visitors vote with their attendance, so we will know if the new exhibits are having an impact on attendance trends by using the daily attendance figures. It is our goal to encourage repeat visitorship. Membership is very popular with families who frequently visit the Explorium. In order to calculate the change in membership, there is a membership list so that we can count the number of members and compare them to last year. We continually seek input of our visitors. One staff member is dedicated to surveying visitors several times a week. This information is tallied and changes are made as necessary. 

Examples of Program Success

The objective evidence of the Explorium doing well is the increase in attendance for the first six months of FY 2013 increased by 30% over the same period for FY 2012. 

The anecdotal evidence the Explorium is doing well is visitor feedback. Below is a sample:

“It was fun to be around people of all ages that were enjoying learning and living. I had a great time with my mom. I hadn’t had a good laugh in a while. It was refreshing, exhilarating, educational, and most of all, FUN.”

“We took our granddaughter to the Explorium and had a wonderful time! She was so entertained and enjoyed the freedom to explore so many interesting projects and displays. At five years old, everything is ‘why, how and when’; this museum allows a child to have fun while learning.”


The educational programs are designed to compliment the exhibits and extend the visigtor's experience. The Explorium offers weekly programs varying in target age range and educational focus. These include: Baby Explorers-literacy and art, 9mo-2 yr; Mini Da Vinci’s-art and fine motor skills, 2-4 yrs; SMASH Club–Kindergarten readiness in Science, Math, Art, Social Studies and Health, 2-5 yrs; Art and Science Workshops–creativity and experimentation, 5-10 yrs; Imagination Station-drop in program for kids to enjoy a hands-on activity; Open Arts Studio–creating art, all ages. There are several special events including Martin Luther King Day, and Chinese New Year which offer several programs throughout the day.  Day camps are also offered when there is no school.

Several weeks throughout the year, the Explorium focuses on one topic (Natived Americans, dental health and science) and hires presenters for schools groups. Teachers can also request an enrichment activity during their visit.

Budget 92000
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Museum Education
Population Served Children Only (5 - 14 years), Infants to Preschool (under age 5), Families
Program Short Term Success

Success of the programs is attendance. Since the Explorium is designed to encourage curiosity and creativity and not be a traditional educational center, our goal is to expose as many children as possible learning by doing and to enjoy learning. This year approximately 15,000 children will enjoy one of our programs at the Explorium.  

Program Long term Success

People will be curiosity to want to learn more about different topics and have the confidence to engage in different types of learning. The future leaders of tomorrow will be inspired to be life-long learners and have a deep desire to explore new concepts. 

Program Success Monitored By

We track success by how many visitors are coming to the educational programs. Successful programs develop a following, so it is very easy to determine which programs are meeting the needs of our visitors. We also have visitor surveys and can track the success of the programs through the comments of our guests. The education staff of the Explorium is always using attendance, visitor comments and survey tallies to tweak, add or delete programs from the monthly offerings.

Examples of Program Success

Visitor feedback on programs is high. Samples comments include, “Summer camp is super awesome!” and “With the help of a guide, the children study the bones of various animals. Great kid-friendly programming.” Over the past year, a significant amount of programming has been added and we anticipate the participation in programs to nearly double this year over last.


The Explorium staff recognizes that not all people can make it to our facility, so there is an emphasis on community outreach. The outreach takes many forms. The Explorium provides children’s activities for many of the regional festivals and fairs. The staff has also provided children’s activities at Keeneland, Chik-Fil-A family nights, Free Friday Night Flicks and Touch a Truck. There are many programs and portable exhibits that can be transported to other locations to provide children with the same high-quality, hands-on learning that is provided with exhibits and programs inside the Explorium.

The Explorium also provides programming in schools. Through participation in Science Nights, Plaid-A-Palooza (Catholic Elementary Schools’ program week), and Field Trips To Go, the Explorium takes its own style of learning by doing into the schools. The concepts explored in these venues are designed to compliment what is being taught in the classroom.
Budget 31000
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Museum Education
Population Served Children Only (5 - 14 years), Infants to Preschool (under age 5), Families
Program Short Term Success Success is tracked with the outreach events by how often we are invited back. We are routine presenters at many science nights, the Plaid-A-Palooza, Field Trips to Go bookings have increased. We are also being asked to do the entire children’s areas at other nonprofits festivals. This is a testament to the high quality, fun and cool programs and exhibits the Explorium takes to other venues.
Program Long term Success
The long-term success for this program is the same as the success for the in-house, educational programs.  Children will develop the curiosity to want to learn more about different topics and the confidence to engage in different types of learning. The future leaders of tomorrow will be inspired to be life-long learners and have a deep desire to explore new concepts. 
Program Success Monitored By
Program success is monitored by repeat bookings, new bookings, and participant feedback. 
Examples of Program Success
This year, the Explorium was booked to provide Field Trip To Go programs (in-school, hour-long programs) in Breathitt county for 10 days in all of their elementary schools.  Many of the children who enjoyed the programs had not been to the Explorium or any other museum.  It is a great way to introduce museums and life-long learning to an area that can not easily experience them first hand.
Program Comments
CEO Comments

The Explorium routinely faces the challenge of staying fresh and exciting without while keeping the fan favorites. This year, we have focused on installing exhibits that were in storage to increase the number of exhibits visitors could enjoy. We also have added interactive parts to exhibits, for instance in the Homes area we have added dress up clothes, play food, building blocks, maps, and housewares to increase the amount of hands-on time spent in this gallery. The additional props encourage the children to spend time in this gallery, learn about living in a different country, and use their imagination as to how it would be to live somewhere else.

Increased programming and community outreach is vital to fulfilling the Explorium’s mission. It also helps encourage visitors to the Explorium so that the children can have the full experience of the exhibits and programs together. This year has been very successful in the amount and quality of programs. 

The continual challenge for the Explorium is the high expense of exhibits and the labor intensiveness of programs. Visitorship is increasing which helps alleviate some of the financial strain, however, contributed income has been down for several years. It is necessary for us to increase this source of revenue to continue to fulfill the many plans there are for new and exciting exhibits. 

Plans & Policies
Organization has a Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has a Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 2
Date Strategic Plan Adopted Sept 2013
Management Succession Plan? No
Organization Policy and Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Under Development
Whistleblower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy No
The Explorium collaborates with many organizations in Lexington including the Lexington Art League, Downtown Lexington Corporation, Lexington Children's Theater, Keeneland, many schools around the state and a variety of other organizations.
Best Museum for FamiliesFamily Magazine2013
Government Licenses
Is your organization licensed by the Government? No
Revenue vs Expenses - All Years
Expense Breakdown - Recent Year
Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year Start July 01, 2014
Fiscal Year End June 30, 2015
Projected Revenue $669,296.00
Projected Expenses $667,816.00
Endowment Value $269,439.00
Spending Policy Income Only
Detailed Financials
Revenue SourcesHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available). Revenue from foundations and corporations may be included in individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201720162015
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$263,850$294,450$252,950
Individual Contributions$84,613$73,674$105,744
Investment Income, Net of Losses$7,962$11,409$6,460
Membership Dues--$0$0
Special Events$30,925$34,623$39,297
Revenue In-Kind--$0$0
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201720162015
Program Expense$544,904$535,580$514,642
Administration Expense$104,416$105,849$100,745
Fundraising Expense$37,133$36,905$44,132
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses1.021.111.08
Program Expense/Total Expenses79%79%78%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue------
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201720162015
Total Assets$399,148$393,064$385,580
Current Assets$44,092$54,828$58,088
Long-Term Liabilities$5,420$44,272$83,122
Current Liabilities$69,626$52,195$74,965
Total Net Assets$324,102$296,597$227,493
Form 990s
2017 Form 990
2016 Form 990
2015 Form 990
2014 Form 990
2013 990
2012 990 2012
2011 990
2010 2010 990
2009 2009 990
2008 Form 990
Audit Documents
2013 Audit
2012 Audit
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
State Registration Yes
CEO Comments
The Explorium continues to have healthy earned income and contributions.  Weather and the extended school year to make up for snow days has made the summer not as good as the past two years. The Board and Executive Director are making adjustments to some marketing strategies to the schools and public to enhance earned revenues in the fall. 
This year, a corporate membership program was developed to provide companies with different perks for their employees.  While it is still a new program, it is being met with positive reviews.  Along with standard operational sponsorships and contributed income, this will be an added income strategy.
Address 440 W Short St
Lexington, KY 40507
Primary Phone 859 258-3253
Contact Email executive@explorium.com
CEO/Executive Director Mrs. Lee Ellen Martin
Board Chair Mr. Gene Guinn
Board Chair Company Affiliation Clear Channel Radio