North Country Children’s Museum opening in Potsdam after six years of efforts and community support
By CRAIG FREILICH
POTSDAM – The North Country Children’s Museum, six years and nearly a million dollars in the making, will open in April.
“I think people are going to be surprised,” said museum director Sharon Veigh Williams. “I’m surprised by how wonderful it is. It has surpassed my expectations.”The museum, in “The Red Barn” facing the parking lot at 10 Raymond St., is busy with building exhibits from scratch and installing other pre-made exhibits.
The museum will open with six main exhibits: The Maple Tree, which will show the change of seasons once every hour; Adirondack Waterplay, flowing water illustrating the North Country’s rivers, ecosystems and hydropower dams; STEAM Power, inviting exploration of science, technology, engineering, art, and math; an early-childhood Playspace, for pre-schoolers aged four and under; Kids Co-op and Bakery, a pretend grocery store; and Construction Zone, where kids can imagine, design and work on building “projects.”
In addition, there is a program room of exhibits and participatory programs that will change every Saturday.
Williams said the idea for the museum began years ago when, just after college, she began working at the Boston Children’s Museum, a remarkable collection of things to do and touch designed for kids.
“Years later, when my kids were little we were living out west, and we knew we were moving to the North Country, I took my son to the Durango Children’s Museum” in Colorado, Williams said.
It was then she began thinking about bringing a smaller-scale children’s museum to a small town.
“In the North Country, it seemed doable, that it would be valued by the community, and something I had knowledge about.”
Still, she didn’t think she could do it alone, and April Vasher-Dean, director of SUNY Potsdam’s Art Museum, came on board.
“April and I connected around the vision for the institution, a real museum, not just a homemade basement playroom,” according to Williams.
That was in 2012, and soon they were taking traveling exhibits and programs around the North Country in the summers, and producing programs at Old Snell Hall and weekend activities at the University Bookstore downtown.
Now, six years later, they have raised $985,000 through an assortment of grants and donations, have bought the Red Barn section of the building at 10 Raymond St. connected to the Best Friends Thrift Shop and The Tile Store, and have been transforming the space.
They have hired two full-time and two part-time permanent employees, have taken on some interns, and are “eagerly seeking volunteers,” Williams said.
“So many people joined and believed in the project. It’s been successful because we had partners, and a board of people with special skillsets and talents. People donated money and ideas. There’s no way I could have pulled it off on my own.”
For the moment, the only thing lacking is $15,000 to build an access ramp for the handicapped.
“We’re accepting donations of any amount,” Williams said.
There is more information at http://www.northcountrychildrensmuseum.org/ and on their Facebook page. People may email or call Williams at 315-323-4842 and [email protected] northcountrychildrensmuseum.org.
No specific opening date has been chosen, but it will be announced when it is set.