Perhaps you have noticed that the Austin Children’s Museum is currently closed? Don’t fret, construction on the Thinkery (the official name for the ACM) is only temporary, and the museum is currently scheduled to reopen in December. Future museum guests will be heading to a new location, a brand new facility in the rapidly expanding Mueller Development.
In Austin’s continuously changing landscape, relocations are inevitable, and the best moves involve careful planning and long desired improvements. One of the most obvious limitations of the downtown location was the limited space for both existing and future exhibits. The new museum in Mueller is almost quadruple the size of the original location, growing from 12,500 square feet of space to over 40,000 square feet.
Additionally, the made-to-order building comes with ample parking and outdoor space as well. It all sounds good on paper, right?
On a recent Friday evening, the Thinkery held a gala to unveil the new Austin Children’s Museum to interested guests and donors. It was the first public viewing of the new building as it nears completion. Despite the inclement weather, event organizers were determined to throw a party. The building was packed to near capacity, and many of the exhibits were on display for guests to test out.
Additionally, there was a monkey. It’s not part of an official museum exhibit, so don’t show up looking for one. But Mikey the Capuchin monkey was waiting at the door to greet guests, in a tiny monkey tuxedo. He was available for photos, and throughout the evening the monkey-receiving line was longer than the bar line. Maybe he can visit again when the museum is officially open?
A crowded party may not be the best scenario when trying to fully explore a new museum, but considering that on most days the space will be crowded with children and families, perhaps it is a realistic scenario. Given the half-finished atmosphere of the exhibits and displays, three areas were memorable.
The Light Lab truly felt like an experiment, but should still be lots of fun once the appropriate signage is in place.
Upstairs, the water play area combines fountains and water tables with sound and geysers. The adults in their formal attire mostly steered clear of the splashing, but I expect children will leave soaked.
Also upstairs was a large kitchen lab, ready for a chemistry class, or adults desiring to spike their drink with dry ice. The garden themed tumble pad was incomplete, but the adults were drawn to the cushioned areas and had to be corralled away from the off limits space. The outdoor playscape looked enticing, even in Friday’s torrential downpour. It was also huge, perhaps the tallest playground I have ever seen.
The contrast of the evening was “big.” Everything about the new Thinkery is bigger than the previous location. As a work in progress, the space is impressive, but it felt empty. The expansive warehouse of a building has high ceilings and lots of wall space with nothing on it. The partially completed exhibits provide for lots of “whys,” but few explanatory “hows.” These questions should all be answered in the coming months, before the museum opens in December.
Check out Thinkery’s website for more information on the new Austin Children’s Museum!
In addition to the friendly and well organized museum staff, the event was given extra sparkle by the team at Clink Events. High five, ladies!
Are you looking forward to seeing the new Austin Children’s Museum?
Photos courtesy of Trevor Yopp.
Disclosure: The author was given free access to the event for the purpose of writing this article. Her love of children (and monkeys) may have swayed her opinions slightly.