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DOWNTOWN Children's Museum to be hands-on experience



Published: Fri, May 21, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



Organizers expect 30,000 visitors per year.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Have you ever wondered what makes a toaster pop?

Or how a weather caster sends his image from a studio to your television?

Or how to say "house cat" in Arabic?

If so, a new museum coming to Youngstown may be just the place to get your questions answered.

The Children's Museum of the Valley is scheduled to open in August at 139 E. Boardman St.

The 11,000-square-foot hands-on center for families will feature adventures in television, art, writing, puzzles, science, geography and more.

"It really is a neat project," said Dr. David G. Ruffer, CEO and the museum's executive director. "There are few places in this area for kids to experience that learning is fun and that learning can be exciting. Having such a place available, I think, is needed in the area."

How plan started

Ruffer, former director of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, said the museum concept was born in 2001 from an idea of the Junior League of Youngstown. An ensuing feasibility study showed that a modest-sized museum was viable and by fall of that year, the museum was incorporated as a nonprofit organization.

It was in January that the museum found its home downtown in a space on Boardman Street at Walnut Street -- across from the main Youngstown post office. Leasing the space came after organizers secured enough funds to ensure a successful startup.

So far, organizers have raised about $380,000 in private funds; they need $605,000 total to fund building adaptation, exhibits and two years of operations. To donate, call (330) 744-5914.

Beyond that, Ruffer expects the museum will cost about $240,000 per year to operate. Funds will come from donors, members, admissions and a museum gift shop.

He said organizers estimate about 30,000 visitors per year. And those visitors, he said, can be referred to other museums in the downtown area.

"We're creating another place in downtown Youngstown where people can come to enjoy themselves," Ruffer added.

He said the location offers families in the area a children's museum without a trek to Pittsburgh, Erie, Pa., Columbus or Cleveland.

The museum seeks to incorporate exhibits through which parents can work with their children. For example, simple labels will explain matters to youngsters and more detailed labels will give parents information to share.

Also planned

Besides the hands-on activities, plans call for an international doll exhibit, a Coca-Cola snack center, an outdoor educational area and a gift shop. The museum will offer its venue for birthday parties and staff will offer outreach programs for area schools and other places.

The museum will open Aug. 25 with a special event for donors and Aug. 26 for members. From Aug. 27 to 29, the facility will feature opening events for the general public.

From there, Ruffer said, the museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sundays.

Admission fees are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children 3 to 13, and free for those younger than 3. Annual memberships are available at a rate of $35 per person, $50 per family, $75 for a three-generation family; $100 for sponsor status and $1,000 for corporate status. Memberships of $100 or more also allow admissions to several other U.S. children's museums.

Ruffer said the facility also will offer one free admission day each month.




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