Story and photos by: Javier Simon
The museum is rife with artwork.
A tree will stand tall in its center. Some children will discover their
artistic talent as they engage in plays while others discover their math
skills by playing in mock-grocery stores and mock-banks. These are some of
the scenes that may become the norm at the Imaginarium Children’s Museum
of the North Country, which is temporarily located in Route 9, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
As an emerging museum, founders hope it will grow into a place where
children can learn and have fun while engaging in various interactive
exhibits. Eventually, they plan to relocate the museum to a 40,000 square
foot permanent location in Plattsburgh.
The museum was the brainchild of Executive Board President Tabatha
Finnegan, of Plattsburgh. She came up with the idea during the spring of
2011 after traveling with her family to visit children’s museums in South
Carolina. “I asked, ‘Why don’t we have anything like that here?’” Finnegan
says. “I always traveled to take my kids to places where they can run
around, play, and have fun.”
Once Finnegan decided she wanted her kids to play at a children’s museum in their own community, she mobilized a group of like-minded individuals to make the Imaginarium Children’s Museum of the North Country a reality. Before the museum held its first event, the 2012 Spring Fling, Finnegan had gained the support of community members and businesses such as the local UNOs pizza restaurant. The museum also gained buzz through its Facebook page.
The Spring Fling event received a positive response from more than 300 community members who filled its 7,000 square foot temporary space. Josh DuBay, who attended the event along with his children, says his community is “supporting the creation” of something it lacks. “We need more fun and educational places for kids to go after school,” DuBay says.
In fact, the spring fling event took place before the museum opened its first exhibit. Instead of an exhibit, the museum offered an inflatable fun house and other activities for children and their parents. Children gathered to plant seeds and solve puzzles using shape models. Volunteers including members of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Upward Bound, a college- preparatory program for local high school students, organized activities such as face painting. Brian Post, Upward Bound‘s associate director, says the museum is “long overdue.”
“We need more fun and educational places for kids to go after school."
Fundraiser Committee Chair Karen De Boos says the Spring Fling event was “just the beginning” and a “great introduction to what the museum is going to be.”
The founders’ mission is to raise money to open as many interactive exhibits as possible. “We plan to have several exhibits based on different academic areas like math science, art, and music,” says Vice President of Operations Jodie Osborne.
A youngster gets his hands dirty.
“Everything is going to be very-hands on,” Finnegan says.
Before establishing permanent pieces, the museum will offer various weekend events for the public. Donations and admission money collected would fund future constructions such as a mock-supermarket, where children would scan empty goods and exchange play-currency as they learn math. “Children will feel like they’re in a kid’s world instead of a grown up’s world,” Finnegan says. Founders also plan to establish a daycare center inside the museum.
“Children will feel like they’re in a kid’s world instead of a grown up’s
The Imaginarium was not established with only children in mind, however. It also was built to bring parents together. “It’s going to be a place where families can interact and let loose,” Finnegan says. Post also says he expects parents to find the Imaginarium appealing as well. “It’s a location where parents can network,” Post says. “It could turn out to be more than just a museum.”
The museum is a place of fun and learning.
The Imaginarium may even attract people to Plattsburgh. “A lot of families look for jobs here and one of the first things they ask is, ‘What is here for my family?’” Osborne says. “Now, Plattsburgh will have something big to provide for those families.”
“It’s going to be a place where families can interact and let loose.”
Before the Imaginarium’s first event, organizers applied for tax-exempt status from the federal government, which could allow the museum to apply for grants exceeding millions of dollars.
The Imaginarium is recognized by the New York State Board of Regents as an
official educational corporation. The American Association of Children’s Museums recognized it as an emerging children’s museum. Finnegan says it usually takes organizers of children’s museums three to five years to find a location and fill out all
necessary paper work. However, the Imaginarium’s staff accomplished these tasks in about a year. “We’re moving at lightning speed in the world of children’s museums,” Finnegan says.
Whatever the future holds for the Children’s Museum of the North Country, Finnegan and her team hope it will do all it can for families. The large tree that Finnegan wants in the center of the museum symbolizes the importance of family. “Think about your family tree,” Finnegan says. “Family is a central focus of the museum.”
The Children’s Museum of the North Country has planted its seed; how will you help it grow?