A children’s museum about to open with a mix of sparkling new and old favorites

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The Go With the Flow exhibit on the new site of the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine features two interactive water tables. The museum opens June 24, with some pandemic restrictions in place, at Thompson’s Point in Portland. Michael Kelley / The forecaster

It’ll be a mix of old favorites and a roster of new exhibits when the Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine opens at its new location in Thompson’s Point on June 24.

The new Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine site in Thompson’s Point offers three floors of arts, culture, community and science exhibits for children of all ages. The new building opens on June 24. Contribution / David Pratt Photography

The 30,000 square foot museum has an expanded theater space and a floor dedicated to science, culture and community. The museum previously operated for 30 years in a 19,000 square foot space on Free Street in downtown Portland.

“There is so much joy in this building and excitement that we look forward to,” said General Manager Julie Butcher Pezzino. “It has been a traumatic year for everyone. This includes our staff. We worked hard to get there. This has not been easy.

This spring had always been scheduled for opening, Butcher Pezzino said, but until recently questions remained about how the museum might open and operate during the pandemic.

“We were really worried a month or two ago,” she said. “It would have an impact on what we would be able to do because we wouldn’t be able to get things out or some exhibits couldn’t be offered. The restrictions have been lifted, and now it’s up to us and our choices to do things. “

The “Our Neighborhood” exhibit has been expanded to include an Amtrak station and airport, which will receive sounds from the nearby Portland International Airport. Michael Kelley / The forecaster

The museum will proceed with caution with limited hours and some restrictions, as most of its visitors are under the age of 12 and are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. For now, group activities will not be offered, the theater will only present single-actor shows until at least the fall, and everyone aged 5 and over will be invited to wear a mask. The building will operate at 40% of its capacity, with 250 people authorized at a time. For now, it will be open Thursday through Saturday and families will need to book their tickets in advance.

The new space offers a lot of things that the old museum site on Free Street in downtown Portland couldn’t, said Patricia Erikson, director of marketing and corporate relations, such as an outdoor playground. half an acre and an educational garden. The Children’s Theater of Maine, the oldest operating youth theater in the country, has moved from the basement of Free Street to Maddy’s Theater, a state-of-the-art 89-seat theater that will be able to present professional performances, as well as theater for children. youth and other events.

The second floor of the building houses the museum’s cultural, artistic and community exhibits and houses the Lunder Arts and Culture Gallery. The gallery features an exhibition dedicated to the book by Maine-based author and illustrator Ashley Bryan, “The Beautiful Blackbird” and an exhibition on the Korean language. The museum’s popular “Our Neighborhood” exhibit has been expanded to include a train station and airport to connect to the Amtrak Downeaster terminal and Portland International Jetport, both visible from inside the building.

At From the Mountains to the Sea, visitors can explore the Maine watershed through a series of seven reservoirs. Michael Kelley / The forecaster

The third floor houses the museum’s scientific exhibits, relating to physics, simple machines and the power of water, light and color. There’s a new Illuminate exhibit and an expanded aquarium with seven freshwater and saltwater tanks.

The popular periscope camera obscura sits on the rooftop and will project panoramic views onto a third-floor display table, just as it previously did at the Free Street location.

“There are things for kids of all ages here,” Erikson said. “This building is much more deliberately expanding the ages that we are reaching.”

Murals by local artists including Patrick Corrigan, Kevin Hawkes and Rachel Adams are on display throughout the museum.

More than $ 15 million was raised for the project from more than 500 donors, surpassing the museum’s initial goal of $ 14 million when the campaign launched in February 2020.

“I am touched by donors at all levels who have recognized the importance of the project to the community and have strived to make this dream a reality. The campaign isn’t just about a building – it’s about opportunities for children. At the heart of this initiative is the desire to significantly expand our reach, ”said Barbee Gilman, Chair of the Imagine Campaign.

According to the museum, the goal is to attract more than 200,000 visitors a year, nearly double the number the museum had on Free Street.

Neighboring businesses will also get a big boost from the museum, according to Chris Thompson, managing partner of Thompson’s Point. The opening of the museum “marks a very important moment for Thompson’s Point,” he said.

“This incredible cultural attraction will draw large numbers of families from Maine and beyond, meaning businesses surrounding Thompson’s Point will see a significant increase in traffic, resulting in economic growth and vitality for our tenants and our programming,” did he declare.

Neighboring businesses include Rwanda Bean, Bissell Brothers Brewery, Stroudwater Distillery, International Cryptozoology Museum, Color Me Mine, Thompson Point Open Air Concert Hall and Ice Rink and soon to be Rosemont Market and Bakery.

“The creative energy within our Thompson’s Point community feels like it has reached an all time high. The excitement is built around interesting collaborations to grow and improve the experience of all our visitors. Engagement is bubbling everywhere you look, and we attribute a lot of that to the arrival of the museum team, ”said Thompson.

The Portland Museum of Art purchased the former children’s museum site for $ 2.1 million in October 2019. No plan is in place yet on how the art museum will use the adjacent building.

“We always assess the positive impact that 142 Free St. can have at the (museum), for our community and in the downtown core,” said Graeme Kennedy, director of strategic communications and public relations for the Portland Museum of Art.

For more information on the museum or tickets, visit kitetails.org.

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