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Blake Pontchartrain: Louisiana Children's Museum in City Park 

The museum is expected to open in 2019

click to enlarge An artist's rendering of the new Louisiana Children's Museum scheduled to open in New Orleans City Park next year.

An artist's rendering of the new Louisiana Children's Museum scheduled to open in New Orleans City Park next year.

Hey Blake,

What is the big construction project going on at City Park behind the New Orleans Museum of Art? It looks like a massive building.

Oscar

Dear Oscar,

  The construction site you spotted in City Park soon will be home to the new $45.5 million, 56,000-square-foot Louisiana Children's Museum, located on 8.5 acres of land behind the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA).

  The current children's museum at 420 Julia St. in the Warehouse District opened in October 1986 from an idea by Candy Weiss and Louise McIlhenny, New Orleanians and friends since childhood who both studied in Boston and became educators there. Both frequently brought their students to that city's children's museum. "We had access to a science museum, an aquarium and the Children's Museum," McIlhenny told The Times-Picayune in 1986. "When I came back to New Orleans (in 1979), I felt that New Orleans children deserve everything that Boston kids have."

  A museum board of directors was established in 1982. A fundraising campaign was launched and the facility opened four years later. Debbie Bresler was its first director and led a staff of three employees and more than 70 volunteers. Some of the early hands-on exhibits allowed children to play on a large wooden tugboat, step inside giant soap bubbles, "make groceries" at a mini-Schwegmann's supermarket and anchor the news in a WWL-TV Eyewitness News Kidwatch studio.

  Museum leaders have been raising funds for the new facility in City Park since 2006. Unlike the Julia Street building, the new museum will include outdoor exhibits and will sit on a lagoon, which will allow for decks, bridges, gardens, a floating classroom and a wetlands area. There will be five new indoor exhibit galleries, a literacy center, parent and teacher resource center and full-service cafe. The museum is expected to open in summer 2019.

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