Carol Johnston founded Canada’s first children’s museum in 1975 with the intention of providing the community — and kids in particular — with a cultural and educational resource that fostered the development of young minds.
Work has been underway for several months as London Children’s Museum prepares to move into to a new home at 100 Kellogg Lane.
On Dec. 14, Johnston and a group of staff members, community stakeholders and supporters were given a first look at what the Children’s Museum is becoming when four conceptual renderings were released by design firm Gyroscope Inc.
“I think it’s called evolution,” said Johnston, who is also the Children’s Museum honorary board chair. “You take the seeds, the essence of things have started, and you help them grow into even more wonderful possibilities. That’s what I see.”
The master plan is the result of input from hundreds of children, families, educators and community members, and according to Johnston provides the overall vision for a re-imagined Children’s Museum.
“I think it’s very well done. I think they’ve caught what we are and what we want to be,” Johnston said. “That’s important because everybody has to change and grow and evolve and we do too, just as people do. That’s what’s shown in these drawings, all the possibilities.”
The new Children’s Museum will feature eight zones offering immersive and interactive play experiences.
From a network of treehouses and animal habitats to a mini streetscape, children will have the opportunity to flex their imaginations and indulge their curiosity. A stream to play in, underground caves to explore, farming and planting, digging for gems, and a space for making and tinkering are just some of the experiences the new Children’s Museum will offer.
“The new Children’s Museum really is inspired by children’s ideas,” says Children’s Museum executive director Amanda Conlon. “Children told us they want to know how things work and why. They want to know what is under the ground and what is out in the universe. They want to test, experiment and explore. The master plan lays the foundation for us to make their dreams a reality and aims to create experiences that are full of wonder.”
Completion of the Children’s Museum master plan will now be followed by architectural planning, exhibit design and custom exhibit fabrication. This process is expected to take three years.
The re-imagined Children’s Museum is expected to be completed by 2021 at a cost of $14 million.
Tasha Leverette, Chief Action Officer at Gyroscope Inc., said she was happy with the public’s reactions to the vision presented in the master plan.
“Everyone loves it; they’re really excited and want to see the project built,” Leverette said. “The reactions I heard this morning said they were thrilled with how well it represented the community, reflected the community, and really put the child’s perspective and view of the world at the centre of the experience.”
Johnston said people have been asking her about the future of the Children’s Museum since the move to 100 Kellogg Lane was announced in May 2018.
They’re “impatient for it to happen, we all are,” Johnston said, adding the sentiment she heard at the public unveiling was all extremely positive.
“They are all ecstatic. I know the work that has to go into making this a reality, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” she said. It’s going to be transformational. These concepts are fantastic, very well done. We’re still two years away . . . but it will be an investment not only in our children, but our whole city. We will be a showcase; it will be wonderful.”
Until renovation is complete at 100 Kellogg Lane, the Children’s Museum will remain open at 21 Wharncliffe Rd. S. The community can stay up-to-date on the new Children’s Museum at staycuriouslondon.ca.