“This neighborhood exhibit brings back memories of my childhood in Oakdale,” said Annarosa Whitman, my tour guide of the new Children’s Museum & Theatre, yesterday afternoon, as we stepped off the elevator at the second floor of the $15 million building into a rainbow of color and natural light with limitless opportunities for interaction by visitors to the Museum; scheduled to open Thursday, June 24. It’s located at 250 Thompson’s Point Road, well inside the Transportation Hub, although it can be seen from the highway.
Admission is via on-line and by reservation initially. That is because the Museum is adjusting to COVID-19 and to a new space. “The Museum is evolving,” explained Whitman, a recent college graduate and a new Marketing & Development Associate there.
And what a vibrant neighborhood the second floor is. There’s a replica of a lobster boat, a lobster shack, the Down Easter train and much more. But what really caught the attention of this blogger is the simulation of a airport control tower that looks out onto the real Portland International Jetport. The plan is to connect the audio from the Jetport control tower to its simulation at the Museum. Just step into the simulation, put on the ear plugs and listen to the traffic at the nearby Jetport control tower.
Lacking an aquarium in this city by the sea, the science floor takes up some slack for this oversight. The Mountains to the Sea exhibit that follows Maine’s watershed to a tidal water touch tank is sure to delight everyone. Another tank contains small “lump” fish that can be seen in Portland Harbor according to Whitman. Before fish are introduced to this exhibit, they are isolated to give them an opportunity to adjust to their new environment. They can be removed from this exhibit temporarily if stress is identified.
The science floor also has a “water play” section with an emphasis on opportunities to work with physics said Whitman. “There are lots of things to touch here,” she said. One is the “water tornado” heavy on a geometric mural by Rachel Adams in the background.
Back down on the ground floor is Maddy’s Theatre. It’s a wheelchair accessible theatre dedicated to the memory of Maddy Corson’s mother. Corson was the honorary chair of the $15 million capital campaign to pay for the new Museum. (See above left photo.)
Apparently there are seasonal and permanent positions available at the Museum. It is growing and so is the staff.
Maybe a future iteration at the Museum will include a replica of the historic Observatory on Munjoy Hill – a part of a neighborhood in Portland.
Words and photographs don’t do justice to this masterful addition to Portland’s culture. There is so much to see and enjoy, allow plenty of time to visit the Museum. And consider requesting the presence of a special guide Annarosa Whitman, who with a recently earned BA in Anthropology, has fresh insights.