Exciting things are happening at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The museum dates back to 1925 when Mary Stewart Carey visited the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and set out to open a similar place for children in Indianapolis. It now covers nearly 473,000 square feet on a 29-acre site and is the largest children’s museum in the world.
The Halloween Scene
In 1933, the Children’s Museum Guild was formed to support the museum through volunteerism and fundraising. In 1964, the Guild created a Haunted House, which remains a popular exhibit and fundraising event. The oldest haunted house attraction in the nation, over $8.5 million has been raised as a result to support the museum. The guild has about 100 active members and last year contributed over 35,000 volunteer hours. As the museum celebrates the 50th year of the haunted house, there will be rooms representing different decades since the haunted house has existed.
“A month is spent decorating the haunted house, and there is a different theme each year,” said Vicki Burdick, who along with Leslie Clark are “head witches” at the haunted house this year. “This year is Time Warp, so it’s going back in time and going through the decades with a peek into the future. You go through a time machine and end up in an upside down room that was in the very first haunted house.”
The season kicked off with a Black Hat Bash last night that included Thriller dance lessons and lots of family friendly fun and the haunted house officially opens on Thursday. The house has three separate parts with different levels of fright. The Lights-On Hours offer fun for the wee ones that scare easily. The Frightening Hours are for those who don’t mind being a bit scared and spooked. And new this year is the Xtreme Scream Hours on Friday nights that offer the maximum of terror. There’s also an optional 3D feature. “With the extreme hours, we’re trying to bring in the teens and tweens who were here as kids,” said Clark. “We want to bring them back.”
Burdick said there are families that come through where adults who visited as children are now bringing their children and grandchildren. “There’s an element that adults will love and kids will love. There’s something for everyone,” she said.
Because it is a fundraiser, admission to the haunted house is a separate fee from the museum admission, but a combo ticket can be purchased to cover both the haunted house and the museum.
Also following with the Halloween theme, the museum has opened an exhibit called Hollywood Haunts, which features some kooky and spooky props and artifacts from from television and the big screen. Among them is the set from "A Nightmare Before Christmas," chilled monkey brains from Indiana Jones and "The Temple of Doom" and the "Mystery Machine" from "Scooby Doo." The exhibit is included with museum admission.
“Whether it’s the click of fingers in the Addams family show opening song or singing Scooby Dooby Doo – where are you? - every generation has a fond memory of its favorite spooky television show or movie,” said Kimberly Harms, Director of Public and Media Relations for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “Looking at the props and movie artifacts we will have on display bring back fond memories of cuddling up with the family to watch a spooky movie and sliding a hand around to poke my brother or sister in the side right when something scary happened. I think families will have a great time reliving their own memories and sharing them with their children or grandchildren.”
A newly updated exhibit, Playscape, opened in August for the five and under crowd. The open, airy space has floor to ceiling windows on one side with calming, earthy tones that create an inviting area for learning through play.
The Climber area offers a great opportunity for physical play with tunnels and surfaces that are enclosed with flexible netting so that children can be seen and heard as they explore.The Sandbox and The Creek water area will be fast favorites of toddlers who can pour and sift ‘til their heart’s content.
A new mother’s area was created in response to visitor requests. It features private nursing rooms with glider chairs, outlets for pumps, adjustable lighting and books and toys to occupy siblings.
“We receive a lot of feedback from parents and we listened to their needs and combined it with research that best provides a multisensory opportunity for families to explore together during the most critical brain development period,” said Harms.
In reponse to the parent input, restrooms, with child-sized features, were placed within the exhibit.
Kids can tune into their creative side in the Art Studio and Music Studio and the Babyscape area is designed for the littlest visitors with an area for non-mobile infants and spots for crawlers.
Older siblings are designated as helpers and encouraged to keep an eye out for the younger children.
An accompanying Playscape App carries through some of the elements that are introduced in the exhibits.
It will be a few more months before the new "Take Me There China" exhibit debuts in the spring. It will be replacing the longtime, "Take Me There Egypt" exhibit. With six major content areas, visitors will arrive though a replica of the Bejing Airport and then make their way through exhibits that introduce them to the Chinese culture.
Terra Cotta Warriors will also open in the spring of 2014 as a collaboration with the Chinese government. Hands-on activities encourage families to investigate the fascinating artifacts. “This is different than an art exhibit,” said Monica Humprhey, Special and Temporary Exhibits Manager. “They can’t touch the real warriors, but they will be able to build their own.”
For more information on the museum and its exhibits, visit childrensmuseum.org.