The New Louisiana Children’s Museum
By Luis Rodrigalvarez and Marcella Escarfuller
Click aqui para español- >El Nuevo Museo de los Niños
When the phone rang and the Louisiana Children’s Museum number was displayed, I thought it would be about the renewal of my membership. However, on the other end was Allison Stouse, the project manager for the new museum, asking me to translate the signs in the new exhibits to Spanish. So, it was then that I began to witness first-hand the final steps of the museum’s transformation from a brick building downtown to the new facilities in New Orleans’ City Park.
For almost a year and a half, I received snippets of information about the new museum and its revitalized exhibits. They all had a taste of Louisiana and the colors of New Orleans.
Shortly after the grand opening, Julia Bland, CEO of the Louisiana Children’s Museum (LCM), sat down with me and VIVA NOLA Magazine to talk about the newly minted museum. Bland’s corner office, wrapped in floor-to-ceiling windows, is perched just above the outdoor patio overlooking the lagoon and herb garden. Bland, who has served as LCM’s CEO for over twenty years, reveals that the museum’s revitalization has been in the works for over thirteen years.
“After Katrina, everyone had great ideas and wanted to change the previously established education system, health system, the neighborhoods, the water resource management. We also decided to think differently and turn the museum into something beautiful that would help children develop from their earliest stage. We now collaborate with other organizations that are dedicated to the well-being of young children. For example, Tulane Pediatrics, Tulane Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Children’s Hospital, and the Policy Institute for Children that shares this space with us.”
The museum is very different from the place it used to be on Julia Street. There are entirely new exhibits to look forward to, of course, but there are some updated classics to look forward to, as well. “Everyone loves the sand table and the water, the kinetic ball machine, the recording studio, and of course, the grocery store and the bubbles that were also very popular in the previous location. What’s really new is being able to offer outdoor activities. We have a large area with sand for the little ones, the orchard to grow and teach, to be able to take walks to explore the surrounding nature and even a floating classroom to teach lessons in the middle of the lagoon.”
Bland’s vision for the museum is not simply to educate and entertain, but to create a lasting impact in the greater community. “If we invest differently in our young people, then we will have very different results in our community. And after the new facilities are opened, that’s when our real work begins.”
LCM is committed not only to early childhood education, but also to the environment and sustainability. The building is LEED Silver Certified (a certification in sustainable construction), houses a basin for rainwater collection, and home to Café Acorn, a restaurant that uses all organic waste for composting.
With the opening of its new facility, the museum has named four main areas of focus for its educational programs: emphasis on early literacy, sustainability and environmental impact, health and wellness, and arts and culture.
LCM’s exhibits and programs highlight the importance of the first years of childhood development, literacy being paramount to that development. LCM also chose to focus on the city’s location on the Mississippi River Delta, between swamps and wetlands, to teach children and the community about the importance of our environment and the need to preserve and protect it, highlighting the importance of sustainability of ecosystems through water management. Also, part of its mission, the museum has implemented programs that educate on the importance of nutrition and the benefits of a local and sustainable diet. And finally, in keeping with New Orleans culture, the museum celebrates the great cultural heritage we hold in New Orleans and Louisiana, and with great musical and culinary richness.
By providing signage in an additional language (in this case, Spanish) the museum demonstrates its intention to include diverse families, and to make it possible for parents and educators to fully explore each activity it offers in an alternative language. It is important for the Louisiana Children’s Museum to educate and support the whole family. The museum goes beyond being an experience only for the little ones. Adults also enjoy participating with the children, exploring and learning together.
The museum’s new facility and renewed mission have undeniably revitalized the organization as a whole. Since opening its doors on August 31st, 2019, the Louisiana Children’s Museum receives an average of 900 visits per day, each visit lasting an average of four hours. Memberships have tripled since the new facility’s inauguration, a true testament to the value of LCM’s educational programs and family-integrated learning.
Visit www.lcm.org to find information on the many programs and activities LCM offers.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. General admission is $14 per person for adults and children 12 months and older.