Sunday, October 24, 1999

Children's Museum programs changing

Designers want to offer variety

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Museums for adults need lots of new exhibits to appeal to the same audience, but a museum for children isn't like that.

        Because the audience keeps changing, children's museums, including the Cinergy Children's Museum, were not designed to change exhibits every year.

        Once a museum has become established, the staff moves onto another phase. In its second year, the Children's Museum will focus on programming.

        “Before we opened, we researched all the exhibits so that each young child would be able to re-create a different experience every time they came back,” says exhibition designer Sandy Shipley. “We designed the museum to be as flexible and ever-changing as possible.

        “You can go through the Woods just for exercise, or you can use it as a nature trail and follow all the clues.

        “Little children enjoy the freedom of splashing in water, but older children can use the water exhibit to learn about the physics of water and things like that,” she says. “You can build on your first experience.”

        Now that the museum knows the exhibits are doing what they were planned to do, “I think our second year is going to concentrate heavily on programming, so parents will know that there's always something new going on in the museum,” Ms. Shipley says.

        “We have months for science,” she says. “We had programs tied to the Egypt exhibit we just had, which was a great success. We had heavy programming in the Children's Museum talking about hieroglyphics, mummies and things like that.

        “So the programming is what is going keep it changing, so that you can come in at any time during a weekend and experience a different demonstration, craft, play in the Corbett Theater or Resource Center program.”

        Expansion is another possibility.

        “Of course we could use another 30,000 square feet to expand the museum, but we don't have that,” Ms. Shipley says.

        “What we do have is the 10,000 square foot temporary exhibition space that connects to all three museums. There's a hallway leading right from the main entrance to the Children's Museum into that.

        “We can theme the hallway out and use that for a temporary children's exhibit to connect to the Children's Museum. We haven't got any exhibits lined up right now but we're always looking for them.”

        Before that can happen, she says, the other two museums (The Cincinnati History Museum and the Museum of Natural History and Science) are getting some attention.

        “Once that's complete, we'll go back and re-examine the Children's Museum, and see if there are any parts that aren't working as well as we hoped.

        “Down the line we'll be altering or changing those, but that won't happen any time soon.

        There will be one change at the Children's Museum, but's it's a small one.

        “We do have a grant from DK Publishing to enhance the Children Just Like Me exhibit, so we're enhancing that exhibit to be more interactive. It's not going to be a major change, but just a way to make it better,” Ms. Shipley says.


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