Children’s Museum opens temporary location in West Hartford

WEST HARTFORD – After two months of being closed to visitors, the halls of the Children’s Museum are once again filled with curious and excited children – but in a totally new place.

“It’s been a long few months,” Beth Weller, the museum’s director of operations, said on a busy Veterans Day morning. “It’s great to see all the kids back. We were so happy to see their smiling faces.”

The museum has officially opened its doors temporary location at the Emanuel Synagogue on Mohegan Drive in West Hartford on November 9, a move they needed to keep operating after their 64-year-old home was sold by Kingswood Oxford to developers who recently got the green light to build luxury housing on the site.

But museum officials aren’t exactly grieving over having to downsize and relocate across town. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to cater to its largest demographic: children between the ages of three and eight.

“It’s a little different from what we were used to at the old place,” Weller said. “It actually allowed us to focus on our family audience and our young kids.”

An early learning lab is one of the first rooms children can stop in when visiting the museum.

Michael Walsh/Hearst Connecticut Media

Visitors will enter the museum from the rear of the synagogue building and descend into a long hallway with exhibits in each room to the side. At the back of the hall, visitors will meet the museum’s animals, most of which were kept during the move. Only the three largest animals in the museum could not move and had to find new homes.

But before guests arrive at the animal sanctuary – where dozens of children have filled a room to see a demonstration featuring a ball python – their first stop could be the hands-on toddler play areas for older children. young museum visitors.

“We brought a lot of these things from the museum that were meant for our young kids,” Weller said. “What’s nice about this place, especially for parents with young children, is that these rooms are small. It’s really helpful to keep them contained and focused on what’s going on in this space. All of these exhibits focus on the learning needs of young children, such as cognition and the creative arts.”

Continuing down the hallway, children move in and out of other museum spaces, which contain many things that visitors to the old museum space will recognize, such as their dinosaur exhibits and other hands-on play building areas. Some things, however, could not move to the temporary space, including the iconic Conny the Whale statuethat some hope to preserve, and the planetarium.

The museum's popular dinosaur exhibit has moved to its temporary space.

The museum’s popular dinosaur exhibit has moved to its temporary space.

Michael Walsh/Hearst Connecticut Media

But with each exhibition space located close to each other, and the museum’s kindergarten being upstairs above them, it’s a setup the museum says is even more beneficial to them. than their old home. It allows children to move from room to room by simply crossing the hallway, they said, making connections in each room.

“This framework, you don’t realize it’s actually very beneficial to us, the way it’s structured,” said Michael Werle, the museum’s executive director.. “We were eager to open up. It took us some time to do that. But it looks like it’s going to work out really well. We see this as a very positive step forward.”

Although the museum location has a temporary name, it will be at the synagogue for at least two years with a third year available to them while they wait for their special use permit to be renewed by the city, Werle said. At that time, the museum might be ready to move to its new home in East Hartford. Werle confirmed that they are looking to build a brand new museum there from scratch, although they are still working on finalizing those plans and noted that things could change.

“We’re trying like mad,” Werle said of securing a site for their permanent residence. “We really want to reach a final agreement with the developer. We are working with the city and the developer. We were hoping that we might have it now, now we say maybe by the end of the year. But it could be a big problem for us. It really would be.

In the meantime, the museum cherishes the opportunity to welcome its guests back as it considers its future. And if the busy Veterans Day crowd is any indication, the community is also excited to find the museum back.

“Right now, we’re very positive about how it’s worked out for us,” Werle said, thanking the Emanuel Synagogue for providing us with a home. “We have landed in a position where we have a lot of options and there seems to be a lot of support. We are very well integrated. At the moment everything is going in the right direction.”

The Children’s Museum, located at 180 Mohegan Drive in West Hartford, is open Wednesday 10am-5pm, Thursday and Friday 10am-3pm, Saturday 1pm-5pm, and Sunday 10am-4pm.

About Bobby F. Lopez

Check Also

New Ohio River Museum in the works | News, Sports, Jobs

The current Ohio River Museum building will be razed and replaced with …