Fastest museum opening in the history of the world? Maybe, but the kids aren't complainingThe new 10,000-square-foot building includes two floors of children’s activities, heralding the completion of Phase One of the DCM’s long-term plan to construct a 24,000-square-foot museum in tandem with its other vacant building facing Helm Street.
By: Thomas Vaughn, Duluth Budgeteer News
Youngsters enjoy spontaneity. Now, adults are joining in.
“We took over the keys sometime around April 15, and we opened the space on May 23. So, this all came together in about seven to eight weeks,” Michael Garcia, CEO and president of the Duluth Children’s Museum, said of the institution’s quick move from the Depot to a new facility in the Clyde Park complex in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
“It is, to the best of anybody’s knowledge,” he went on, “the fastest museum opening in the history of the world, to go from a blank building to a fully occupied and open and operating museum.”
The whole history of the world might be hard for him to quantify, but at a June 23 welcoming reception with nearly 600 families, nobody was asking him to.
The new 10,000-square-foot building includes two floors of children’s activities, heralding the completion of Phase One of the DCM’s long-term plan to construct a 24,000-square-foot museum in tandem with its other vacant building facing Helm Street.
Garcia said museum officials took a gamble that “there were enough people who would pay admission, join as members, and bring school tours here, that if we relocated we could pay for this operation. In our first three weeks we’ve proven ourselves correct. If anything, we may have underestimated what the public demand is.”
Part of that demand is evident in the smiles of the young patrons.
Siblings Alex and Sydney Kazel enjoy exploring the various learning stations at the museum. “I love to play in here and I like to be the queen. I like to make the food and sit on the throne. This place is so fun and I like the gift shop,” said 5-year-old Sydney, as she readied the dining table for any guests that might stop by the Great Hall castle space on the second floor of the museum.
“The dinosaur dig is the best. It’s so fun to hide the bones for other kids and then they’re fun to dig up and I can show the kids where some bones are. I even got some new friends from the dig spot,” said Alex, who is going into second grade.
Part of the financing for the new space came from more than 40 businesses and tradespersons who donated or sold at cost their services or products which, in part, enabled the museum board to move on its decision. For example, a company that installs shotcrete for grottos, wine caves, and pools worldwide donated the services of masonry experts, who applied the innovative product with an air-pressured hose to put the finishing contours onto a mock dinosaur dig site designed by Rich Jaworski, vice president of operations, programs and collections.
Pam Kramer, executive director of the Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation, said her organization has been a long-term backer of the museum.
“We really saw this move as adding to the revitalization of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, adding opportunities for children and families to learn and receive opportunities for education,” she said. “I think it’s a perfect use of the Clyde space and I think it will help build businesses and economic opportunities in the neighborhood.”
John Erickson is a partner with DSW Architects, a Duluth architectural firm that has been involved in envisioning the project. Erickson has also been a member of the DCM board for three years. He helped oversee code compliance updates, the installation of fire sprinkler systems, and the placement of new walls.
“This property became available within the last four or five months, it came up very quickly,” said Erickson, as he watched children and their families play in the second-floor exhibit space, which stretches for about 120 feet underneath high windows.
“It really was an opportunity. The building became vacant and the need to jump on this quickly was required because the property owner did not want it to sit vacant for too long.”