News Column

EDITORIAL: Experience Children's Museum gets welcome makeover

April 24, 2014

Erie Times-News, Pa.



April 24--Advertisement

The Experience Children's Museum has a new director and a fresh look, and that's good news for Erie families and visitors.

In September, Ainslie Brosig, who spent 12 years as the marketing and event coordinator for the Erie Zoo, became the museum's director -- the fourth since 2010.

Such turnover in leadership was unusual for the museum. June Pintea, who first proposed a children's museum for Erie in 1976, had served as director since the museum opened in 1995. Pintea succeeded Judy Cassidy, who served as the director for two years as the Junior League of Erie raised money to open the museum. Junior League volunteers have also been key to keeping the museum staffed and funded.

Erie people were excited when the museum opened because the building, 420 French St., preserved an important part of Erie history: the Boston Store Livery and Garage. But the new Erie museum also generated buzz because it catered to the future -- the next generation.

Unlike traditional museums where exhibits are roped off or kept behind glass to preserve fragile artifacts, children's museums encourage visitors to play with items on display. Museum names reflect that desire to be both kid-friendly and educational. That is why there is the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, the Hands-On Children's Museum of Lancaster and our own Experience Children's Museum.

Tourists are happy to discover such museums because they are a good outlet for active children when you are on vacation. The website for the Association of Children's Museums, www.childrensmuseums.org, has a search button to find such museums worldwide.

Of course, the Experience Children's Museum is a popular regional treasure. About 35,000 people visit the museum every year and 700 families have memberships, but the opportunity to encourage repeat visits is lost if exhibits never change.

To liven things up, Brosig, the new director, brought along her expertise from her years at the kid-friendly Erie Zoo. She also hired Tami Fowler, the zoo's education coordinator, as the museum's education and volunteer coordinator in January.

Improvements started shortly after Brosig came on board. In November, the second floor got new carpet and paint. In December, the "Old World" exhibit opened a pretend bank and deli. In January, the "World of Oil," sponsored by FMC Technologies, opened, followed by the new "Paint in Water" exhibit in February. The Eriez Magnetics interactive station was refurbished in March. In May, the second-floor stage will be updated, and in June and July, Wegmans will renovate the pretend grocery store.

Fowler has also added the Tiny Tots program, for children from 6 months to age 2, and new preschool programs for children ages 2 to 5.

"We want people to keep coming back. This museum will be constantly changing," said Brosig. Stable leadership and changing exhibits are a good combination.

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Source: Erie Times-News (PA)