Creating a science museum is like playing with building blocks. It takes imagination, perseverance, and innovation to build a monument to experiential learning. The following excerpt is from the first page of Lives of Museum Junkies. Unusual consequences often occur from obscure beginnings and it is a pleasure to share them with you.
Creating an Interactive Museum: Naïve Beginnings
“Stop running and making so much noise!” I shouted to five rambunctious children playing hide-and-seek in closets throughout the house. It was a cold day and my friend Dee Pumplin was visiting with her son. She and I were having a difficult time hearing each other as we chatted animatedly in the kitchen. It was during this conversation that my homemaker days started to end, when over coffee in my suburban house we brewed up the idea of a hands-on museum that emphasized science. Children are not always polite, studious little creatures set on this planet to impress and please their parents.
Children are not always polite, studious little creatures set on this planet to impress and please their parents. Instead they are balls of energy who love to run, scream and create bedlam. In short they can drive a parent crazy, especially on a rainy day. As Dee and I talked, her one and my four children shouted and squealed, ignoring the storm roaring outside. The increasing noise level was like a drum roll announcing a new idea. We started imagining what it would be like to take our kids to an indoor playground. “Wouldn’t it be magnificent to have a great big barn,” we fantasized, “and fill it floor to ceiling with ramps, poles, and climbing apparatus? What fun it would be for the children and their friends. They would get rid of their energy away from home and our houses would be preserved.” Dee and I started to wonder where we could find a barn and even took the next step of contacting a realtor.
As we learned more, the vision for an indoor play structure grew. The immense dimensions of a working barn inspired our ideas to expand to include interactive learning activities inserted into climbing areas. We imagined children swooping down a sliding board and finding a light table, colored filters, and projectors to use for experimentation. The colored light could be projected on the next child speeding down the slide. We embraced the idea of physical play being integrated with academic challenges in a never-ending cycle of learning.
After months of talk and concept development, we finally located a barn, but it wasn’t long before we faced a dose of reality. The cost to acquire the property was more than we anticipated and building the inside play structure seemed monumental. The barn needed to be heated, insulated, electrified, bathroomed and water sprinkled and once it was upgraded, ongoing utilities would be astronomical. The permitting process was overwhelming to two inexperienced women who began to wonder if the city would even allow this type of play-barn to exist. Insurance was bound to be phenomenal, not only because we were dealing with a wooden structure but because we were planning to let children run throughout. We especially liked the idea of fire poles descending from one level to the next. Sound safe? Costs mounted, reaching an enormous number before we even considered the price of exhibits and staffing. . . . .
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New Release: Former OMSI President Reveals the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly History Behind the Hands-On Education Movement
“…will help you see science museums in a new light.” – David Ucko, Museums+More llc
In this lively, behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of interactive science museums, discover:
How the Brooklyn Museum of Art was saved from closure by Mayor Rudolph Guiliani for showing a painting by Chris
How the Brooklyn Museum of Art was saved from closure by Mayor Rudolph Guiliani for showing a painting by Chris Ofili of the Virgin Mary that contained elephant dong.
Why an autistic child spoke for the first time on a science center visit.
Who kept NOVA from being canceled when congress did not agree with their investigative reporting style that explored sensitive subjects like nuclear energy.
What inspired a poor Appalachian orphan to go from rags to riches to become a museum president who later rented an entire cruise ship to see a global eclipse on the Amazon.
Why executives at the top are subject to sexual abuse and find it nearly impossible to manage.
The outcry caused by the Playboy Bunnies playing basketball with business executives to raise funds for a museum.
“recommended for those who care about museums, libraries and society today.”
– Ginnie Cooper, Directed Washington D.C., Brooklyn, and Portland library systems .