By Leila McRae, Bookings & Membership Manager
When we closed our doors in March we had hoped that we would only be closed for a few weeks. Certainly, we did not anticipate being closed for months and not being able to welcome you to the museum for an extended period.
In light of our closure we will be extending all current memberships for however many months we are closed from their expiration date. All memberships will be updated in our database with the new expiration dates and members will be issued an updated expiration date sticker to add to their current membership card.
We cannot wait to welcome you back to the museum when it is sure to be a safe and fun visit for all of our guests and staff. We miss seeing you, hearing your laughs, learning with you and sharing stories and enjoying our days with you.
In the meantime, please visit our Online Learning & Fun page to stay connected with the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire through a number of virtual activities, and follow us on Facebook to stay in touch and learn about members-only opportunities when we reopen.
Children’s Museum Encourages Families to #PlayTogether
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, like every museum across the country, has closed its doors for the good of the community during this pandemic. “Luckily ‘PLAY’ can happen anywhere,” said CMNH Director Jane Bard. “Our mission is to actively engage families in hands-on discovery, and there is no reason we can’t continue to do that, even with our exhibits being temporarily closed.”
In order to continue to fulfill their mission, Museum staff and educators are working hard to create online videos, blogs, social media challenges and more. “We continue to offer our Wee Ones Wednesday program Wednesday mornings at 8am through a recorded video on all of our social media channels including YouTube,” shared Bard. “So, fans of that program can tune in and say hello to their friend ‘Octopus’, do an activity or craft, pause for snack time, dance around to some silly songs, and even enjoy a story. If you’ve never joined us for a Wee Ones program, now is a great time to test it out! It’s perfect for ages 2 - 4.”
Another popular program is “First Friends and Baby Storytime.” “Ms. Meredith, one of our educators, has been recording First Friends videos to share with families at 8am on Friday mornings,” said Bard. “First Friends is a great program for babies and toddlers to watch together with their caregivers, because it has silly rhymes and active songs perfect for that age group.” Ms. Meredith also shares Tinker Time Tuesday videos as well, which are designed for parents who are looking for creative ways to help their toddlers practice skills like sorting, building, cause and effect and more.
The museum’s outreach efforts don’t exclude the older kids. “Much of the content we share can be modified for a wide range of ages,” said Bard. “We give tips and tricks on how to do that either within the videos or on our blog.” Other video topics have included art activities, storytimes, STEAM challenges, and simple science experiments. “Everything we share can also be utilized by educators, and we certainly hope they take advantage of them."
In addition to the online content, the Museum is offering a range of Museum Shop “Spring Fun Packs” and “Museum to Go Activity Boxes” for sale online. When ordering, people can choose from two pick-up dates, Thursday, April 9 from 4-6pm or Saturday, April 11, 10am-noon. The purchases will be available in front of the Museum for contactless pick-up. “These are great bundles of toys and activities, perfect for the upcoming holiday, or really any day,” said Bard. “After all, playing together can happen anywhere, anytime. And the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is here to be a community resource as we all try to parent through this pandemic.”
Dear CMNH Friends,
I’m sure by now you all know how these announcements go. “These are unprecedented times.” Indeed they are, as I’m writing to you from my kitchen table, and not from inside the Museum listening to the sounds of happy children. Two weeks ago we thought we would be welcoming you back with a refreshed facility and exhibits on April 1st. Pandemics, as it turns out, are hard to predict, and we now know we can’t reopen just yet. But we will be back when it is safe to do so!
In the meantime, we’re doing what we do best, which is encouraging families to actively engage in hands-on discovery, now from the safety of their own homes. We are creating videos of our popular programs and sharing resources to support your at-home learning. Our goal is to continue to #PlayTogether while also bringing a sense of normalcy to children who miss their Museum friends.
Temporarily closing the Museum has not only been sad, but also devastating to us financially. As a non-profit, we rely on income from ticket sales, memberships, classes, and special events to keep the Museum running. Like many of you, we are tightening our belts, using our creative thinking skills to find ways to sustain us through this time, and looking forward to the day we can see you face-to-face.
Since we are closing longer than anticipated, we will be extending our family memberships so you can join in the fun when we reopen.
If you are able, here’s how you can support the Museum during the closure:
- Renew an expired membership or purchase a gift membership for a friend or loved one so you can visit together when we reopen. Gift Memberships aren’t active until redeemed here at the Museum, so they can be purchased at any time and are valid a year from the month of redemption. All memberships will be mailed out one we have an opening date.
- Share our free online content with friends, and consider giving a $5 donation for programs you and your family enjoy.
- Participate in our Car or Cash Raffle fundraiser, and have the chance to win an electric car, sports car or $20,000 prize.
As we watch spring unfold, we’re all taking a collective deep breath and moving forward one day at a time. We will be sure to keep in touch when there is news to share. We are honored to be a valued part of this community for the past 36 years, and look forward to seeing you all soon.
Jane Bard, President
In the interest of doing our part to support the health and wellness of our community and each other, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire will temporarily close to the public beginning at 5 pm, March 14th, 2020, through the end of March. All efforts will be made to reschedule cancelled events, and all groups and individuals affected will be contacted by our staff.
Over the coming weeks, our staff will continue to work both off-site and on-site with appropriate social distancing procedures. We will take this time to deep clean and refresh our facility & exhibits, plan programs and events, and host virtual online activities with our educators to engage children and families during this challenging time.
We will continue to monitor developments and share any updates via our website and social media channels. We appreciate your support and understanding and look forward to welcoming you back to the Museum when we reopen!
Car or Cash Raffle Winner Chosen Soon
In less than two weeks, one lucky person will be randomly chosen as the winner of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s Car or Cash Raffle. The winner will get to choose between a 2019 metallic gray Nissan 370Z Coupe (MSRP $32,995) or $20,000 cash.
The winner will be chosen at a free event at Port City Nissan in Portsmouth on Tuesday, May 21 from 5:30-6:30pm. Everyone who has purchased a raffle ticket is invited to the event, and there is good reason to come. “If you come to the winner reveal event on Tuesday, we’ll automatically enter you into a last minute drawing to win an extra Car or Cash raffle ticket,” shared CMNH President Jane Bard. “Who knows, that last minute ticket might be the one that wins!”
Odds of winning in the raffle are very good. According to the museum, as of this release they have only sold less than 400 tickets out of the total 725 they have available. “Those odds are fantastic, and definitely better than the Powerball,” said Bard.
The Car or Cash Raffle is one of the non-profit’s museum’s fundraisers. “We rely on the proceeds of this raffle as it allows us to continue offering subsidized museum visits for schools and families in challenging circumstances,” said Bard.
Tickets can be purchased online via the Museum’s website: www.childrens-museum.org now until 2pm on Tuesday, May 21st. After that, tickets can still be purchased in person at the Port City Nissan event until 6pm.
Purchasers of car or cash raffle tickets must be 18 years or older, possess a valid driver’s license and provide proof of insurance. The winner is responsible for registration, title and all applicable federal, state and local taxes resulting from the award of this prize. A maximum of 725 will be sold (50 less than last year). Raffle tickets are not tax deductible. The museum would like to thank its media partners Z107, Rock 101 and 96.7 News Radio as well as Port City Nissan for being a wonderful supporter of this fundraiser.
Children’s Museum of NH’s Final 5K Road Race in 2019
The Children’s Museum of NH’s 5K Road Race had a good 34 year run, but is now coming to the finish line. Saturday, May 4th, 2019 will be the last road race organized and hosted by the museum, which is the first race in the Seacoast Road Race series.
“When we first started this race in 1985, it was one of our very first fundraisers, and it happened to be at the beginning of the road race movement,” shared CMNH President Jane Bard. “At that time, and in the many years that followed, it served as a wonderful community resource, and we are so grateful to all our participants, sponsors, and Seacoast Road Race Series partners for making it such a fun and festive event over the years.”
However, with the increased number of road races available to runners in the area “it no longer seems like it is the best use of our time and efforts,” shared Bard. “With our mission being focused on actively engaging families in hands-on discovery, we feel our other numerous events and programs better serve that function.”
“It was not an easy decision,” said Bard. “This year, our 35th anniversary year, we spent a lot of time looking back over our history, but also reflecting on the paths we want to blaze in the next 35 years. Change is tough, but it’s necessary!”
Those new future paths may include an event that reflects the popular Kid-venture Course that was developed as a silly obstacle course for kids ages 1-10 and happens the same morning as the 5k. “Our participation in the Kid-venture Course continues to increase each year, so that tells us a lot,” said Bard. “We’re also planning to repeat some popular new fundraising events that we debuted this year like Cider Flights & Tasty Bites and Mini Golf in the Museum.”
For those runners or walkers of all ages hoping to enjoy our race one final time as we say goodbye to this signature event, discounted $22 online registrations are being accepted through Friday, May 3rd, or you can register at the race itself on Saturday, May 4th for $25. The certified 5k course through downtown Dover starts at 9am at the intersection of Central Avenue, Washington Street and Henry Law Avenue. The Kid-venture Course, which has a superheroes theme this year, will take place in lower Henry Law Park at 9:50am, and discounted online registration costs $8 in advance or $10 on race day. The morning features a festive atmosphere full of awards and prizes, activities with some of our sponsors, and great food including La Festa Brick oven pizza, Panera baked goods, Terra Cotta Pasta pasta salad, RiverBend sandwiches, a top-your-own yogurt bar, water and granola bars sponsored by Hannaford, fresh fruit and more!
To learn more or to register, visit www.childrens-museum.org/things-to-do/events/5k-road-race-fun-run. The museum thanks it’s 2019 5K Road Race premiere sponsor Sprague, as well as Event Sponsors Relyco, Weathervane, Willem Verweij Physical Therapy, La Festa Brick & Brew Pizzeria, Seacoast Spine & Sports Injuries Clinic and Berwick Academy, and Supporting Sponsors Bob’s Discount Furniture, Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A., Calling All Cargo Moving & Storage, Dover Honda, FORMAX, Hannaford, RiverBend Pizza and Subs, Runner’s Alley, Terra Cotta Pasta, and Wing-Itz.
As 2018 draws to a close, all of us at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire want to take a moment to thank you for choosing to spend your precious family time with us this year. Life is busy and childhood is fleeting, making the time to connect with loved ones and create joyful memories more important than ever.
Your children may not remember this year’s holiday gifts a year from now, but they will remember piloting the Museum’s Yellow Submarine with you as co-pilot, making you a meal in the Kids Cafe, meeting their favorite book character, and simply laughing, learning and being together with you.
In 2019, we will continue to fulfill our mission of engaging families in hands-on discovery through new programs and exhibits such as a Family Book Club and Mini Golf at the Museum, the Lights! Shadow! Action! interactive classroom, and the outdoor Play Patio. As a non-profit Museum, all of these initiatives are only possible thanks to the generous support from foundations, businesses and individuals.
Here’s to a new year of inspiring children and nurturing connections with family and friends!
Jane Bard, CMNH President
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire Celebrates A Big Year
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is marking its 35th birthday in 2018-19 with a year of events celebrating the past and looking ahead to a future dedicated to creating experiences that engage and inspire the next generation of innovators and creative thinkers. With exhibit overhauls and expansions, a Free Family Fun Day, Art Raffle and more, the museum is celebrating in style all year long.
When the museum first opened on Saturday, July 30th, 1983 as the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth in the old South Meeting House on Marcy Street, you could see the inspiration of its co-founders everywhere. Ona Barnet and Denise Doleac were both educators as well as fans of children’s powerful curiosity. “It’s no surprise that we would talk for hours about Maria Montessori, and self-directed learning. Over coffee we talked about what an outside-of-school environment designed to encourage a child’s natural love of investigation might look like,” shared Denise Doleac. After much conversation and thought, they decided it just might be possible to create such an engaging and fun exploration center for families right there in Portsmouth. “There were very few Children’s Museums back in 1981 and those few were in large cities. So creating the Children’s Museum in a city of 24,000 people would be an interesting adventure indeed.”
After two years of planning, permits, fundraising and educating people about what a Children’s Museum was all about, the museum welcomed 400 children and their grown-ups to its grand opening. Anna Goldsmith, who was 9 at the time and quoted in a Foster’s Daily Democrat article written by Peyton Fleming, said “I think this is really neat because there is already enough stuff for adults. Grown-ups already have bars and discos. But finally they’re creating something for the kids and I think that’s good.”
Rachel Janowitz, another 9 year old, was also quoted in the same article as saying “We will be able to experience a lot of things we couldn’t experience before, because the museum wasn’t here."
That first year, the museum welcomed 27,000 visitors. The original exhibits included the Yellow Submarine, built by Architect Christopher Clews, three Commodore 64 computers, a hospital room with equipment provided by the Portsmouth Regional Hospital, a factory assembly line where children could create leather bookmarks, a video room, and a small radio station dubbed WFUN.
A New City
Over the next 25 years, exhibits changed, membership grew, and a constant stream of innovative programming attracted larger and larger crowds to the tiny South Meeting House. “Around 1995, Museum Trustees and our founding Director Denny Doleac began considering the idea of expansion,” shared Jane Bard, current CMNH President. “Although we loved the charm, history and location of our home in Portsmouth’s South Meeting House, we simply didn’t have enough space for exhibits, classrooms, visitor amenities or parking. Our staff worked off-site in a separate rented space and there were often long waiting lines to enter the Museum when we reached the building’s capacity.”
After a decade-long search in Portsmouth and subsequent meetings with city officials in Dover who recognized the benefit of locating the Museum in a soon-to-be-empty Butterfield Gym in downtown Dover, it was decided that the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth would move to Dover and become the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. After raising funds to completely renovate the new location, and design and create new exhibits for a space four times the size of its former location through a $3.2 million Capitol Campaign, a grand reopening ribbon cutting ceremony, mirroring one that happened 25 years prior, happened on July 26, 2008. The former Butterfield Gym was converted into two floors of accessible, interactive, hands-on exhibits that not only reflected the exhibits that had become childhood favorites, but also expanded to embrace the new museum’s natural and historical environment as well.
The Yellow Submarine, a favorite exhibit that became the unofficial symbol of the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth, still greets visitors as they enter the museum. However, the Yellow Sub has been redesigned to mimic a research submarine with a sonar gun, a listening station, working periscope, and control room where kids can navigate the sub through the waters beneath the Gulf of Maine. A new favorite, the Cochecosystem exhibit overlooking the Cocheco River explores the interchange between the natural and industrial environment of the Cocheco River and specifically examines how “engineers,” both human and animal, use the river.
A Community of Collaboration
One thing that hasn’t changed since moving to Dover is the importance of collaboration between the community and the museum. “When we founded the museum, we really relied on local businesses who donated countless products, exhibit materials, and labor to help us get the museum going,” said Denise Doleac. “It was a true grassroots effort.” After a decade in Dover, current CMNH President Jane Bard agrees. “The success that we have had here in Dover has been in large part due to the community. We have been so welcomed and have had so many wonderful partnerships and it has made all the difference in what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
In 2017 alone, the Museum served nearly 93,000 visitors from 194 different New Hampshire cities and towns, all New England states and welcomed travelers from 42 states, two U.S. territories and eight countries.
The city of Dover has felt the positive impact of the museum’s presence as well. Gail Moore of Dover spoke of her hopes for Dover back in 2007 during a Dover City Council meeting. “Dover is turning into a better place to live. When I tell friends in other places that the Children’s Museum is coming to town, they are surprised and a little envious. The museum is part of Dover becoming a vibrant, active community for these times.” Fast forward to Brian Gottlob, a consulting economist, who analyzed the annual impact of the museum on the City of Dover in 2018. His brief, and unsolicited analysis suggests “the museum results in between $1.8 and $2.3 million in additional expenditures in the local economy (not including ticket sales or other expenditures at the Museum itself).”
Celebrating & Looking Ahead
After 35 years of innovative programming, artistically designed exhibits, and engaging with literally millions of visitors, the Museum is looking ahead to what will come next. Some things will remain the same, like the museum’s commitment to early learning to build healthy brain architecture, S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), access for all children and families, and its founding principle that kids thrive when given the space to explore and discover.
New adventures are being crafted right now hidden away in the museum’s basement workshop. The One World exhibit, a group of three spaces that explore different cultures from around the world, will be updated this Fall to include a World Market complete with spices, clothing, masks and musical instruments from Indonesia, India, and Mexico - cultures represented in local New Hampshire communities. Children can “purchase” items in the market and bring them next door to prepare and serve food in the World Café or participate in a festival celebration.
Over the next five years, the Museum will be investing in creating and updating its visitors’ experiences through the Play Expansion Project. In the next year alone, the Museum will be developing an outdoor Play Patio that will provide a space for messy play with bubbles, water, paint as well as sensory exploration and a picnic area. The Museum will also be updating an existing classroom into a new Interactive Classroom that can easily convert to an exhibit space with a flick of the switch featuring interactive light, color and shadow activities when the room is not needed for school programs. Both projects were made possible thanks in part to the $100,000 tax credits the museum recently received from the NH Community Development Finance Authority and grants from the Abbie F. Moseley Charitable Trust and the McIninch Foundation.
35 Years of Art and Creativity
Since its inception, the Children’s Museum has always featured art and art making, and even has its own in-house Art Gallery filled with exhibitions by local professional artists. Many of the walls of the museum itself are painted with beautiful murals donated by local artists, and several pieces of the museum’s “permanent collection” are exhibited proudly. With so many years of art gracing its walls, the Museum was thrilled by the outpouring of support from the 35 artists featured in the current Gallery 6 art exhibition “35 Friends: 35 Years of Art and Creativity.”
The art on view this summer ranges from a collage by Sarah Haskell who presented art workshops in both Portsmouth and Dover, to an abstract watercolor by Rebecca LeCain who is not only a CMNH Experience Guide, but also helps with creating the exhibits, including the mural currently hanging on the façade of the museum. Subject matters include dinosaurs, colorful butterflies, robots, landscapes, and of course, kids.
Most of the art in this exhibition is part of a summer-long raffle. A sheet of 20 raffle tickets can be purchased at the front desk of the museum for only $5. Participants can then choose their favorites and take a chance to win them. The winning tickets will be pulled on Sunday, September 30th at 2pm.
A Quacky Good Time
Also happening in September 22nd is the first ever Free Family Fun Day at the Children’s Museum, featuring a Dover Ducky Derby. The museum will throw open its doors and invite everyone to play for free all day from 10am-5pm. Visitors can participate in a variety of favorite activities from the last 35 years and enjoy performances and special guests. The Dover Ducky Derby will start at 1pm when a huge flock of adopted yellow rubber ducks will be launched from the Washington Street Bridge and race down the Cochecho River, which flows behind the museum. The first five ducks to cross the finish line will score prizes. Ducks can be adopted all summer long at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire or online: $5 for one duck, $50 for a gaggle of 12 ducks, or $100 for a flock of 50 ducks. The Dover Ducky Derby is a joint fundraiser in collaboration with SEED (Seacoast Educational Endowment of Dover).
A lot has changed in 35 years. Commodore 64 computers are obsolete. Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. They changed math. And Children’s Museums are universally understood with over 400 children’s museums in the country compared to about 80 thirty-five years ago. “I don’t have to explain what a Children’s Museum is when people ask me where I work,” said Neva Cole, CMNH Communications Director.
“Back in 1983 it was a challenge to convey the concept of this very different type of museum, and convince people that it would be a viable, meaningful resource for area families, schools and the community,” said Denise Doleac, CMNH co-founder.
“Thanks to Denise and Ona, and all the board members, volunteers, staff, artists, performers, businesses, foundations, individual supporters, and community organizations, we will be able to continue our mission of actively engaging families in hands-on discovery for many more years to come,” shared Jane Bard.
“We invite everyone to join us as we celebrate 35 years and counting!”