Children’s museums, focusing on the educational and social development of children through hands-on, interactive exploration of exhibits and artifacts, have existed in the United States for over one hundred years. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s, however, that the idea was introduced to Canada by our founder Carol Johnston.
A visit to the Boston Children’s Museum in 1973 convinced Carol to establish a children’s museum in London. “My children had never been in such a place before,” Carol remembers. “It was a different kind of museum – one where children were welcome to touch, to interact and to experience. My children were very excited. Watching them run and climb and play, I thought this was a wonderful way to learn.”
With a wealth of grit and determination, and a large group of caring, committed volunteers, in 1975 the London Children’s Museum became Canada’s first children’s museum.
Our Children’s Museum had the humblest of beginnings, when during that first year several volunteers ran programs in 21 city playgrounds trying to build support for the concept. An interim board of directors was recruited and the Children’s Museum was incorporated as a non-profit, charitable organization.
Various temporary homes housed the displays and programs of the Children’s Museum until 1982 when the former Riverview Public School was purchased and renovated, supported by a $1.5 million community fundraising campaign.
In the first full year of operation in its new home, the Children’s Museum served 60,000 visitors, ran 1,152 school programs, and conducted 200 workshops on a budget of $200,000.
The Children’s Museum now welcomes 80,000 visitors a year and operates on a budget of approximately $1.2M. It is three floors of inventive and interactive exhibits, cultural and educational programs, intriguing collections and pure fun. It is fully accessible and open year round.
The future of the Children’s Museum is very exciting! Our vision is to create new spaces, new exhibits, and new areas of learning for our children, which means in the next three to five years we’ll be moving.
The time we have spent in our beloved building has meant a lot of play, laughter, and learning. It’s also seen a lot of wear, and the maintenance needs and cost of running the Children’s Museum in this building are extensive.
And so, it’s time to look for a new space, a new dream, a new future so that the essence and spirit of the Children’s Museum can continue.
During our time of transition, it’s business as usual. We are open, and we look forward to having families continue to visit us.