The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh: A Beacon of Interactive Learning
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh has made a significant mark as an interactive learning hub that provides children with hands-on experiences. The Museum is located on the North Side of Pittsburgh, in Allegheny Center.
The museum’s story begins in 1983, when the old Allegheny Post Office building became its first home. The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation generously donated the building, which is located in what used to be Allegheny City. Before the establishment of a permanent location, the museum started as a mobile unit in 1972, as part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival.
Expansion and Modernization
In the early 2000s, a significant expansion plan was unveiled, which aimed to breathe new life into the neighboring Buhl Planetarium building. This Art Deco structure had been left vacant since 1991 when the Carnegie Science Center replaced it.
The plan, devised by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc., sought to connect these two historical buildings with a modern glass addition over what used to be Allegheny Square street. The street was subsequently realigned, and the addition was constructed.
This expansion project led to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh earning the distinction as the largest Silver LEED certified museum in the country in March 2006. This certification recognizes sustainable practices in site development, water conservation, energy management, the use of recycled materials, waste management, and resource reuse.
Embracing Sustainability At The Children’s Museum
The museum has committed to teaching its visitors about green practices. It has done this by leaving many of the building’s structural and mechanical systems exposed. This allows visitors to see the practical implementation of sustainable practices.
Park Rehabilitation and the Introduction of Art
In 2010, plans were announced to revamp a deteriorating park in front of the museum. The revitalized park, which opened in 2012, features a fog sculpture by renowned artist Ned Kahn.
Grounds and Exhibits
The museum’s grounds host a seasonal “Backyard” which includes “Allegheny Waterworks”, an interactive environment that features preserved local architectural relics.
The museum is home to a plethora of both ongoing and rotating exhibits. These include the MAKESHOP, Kindness Gallery, Studio, Backyard, Garage, Garden, Theater, Waterplay, and Nursery areas. These exhibits promote hands-on learning and encourage children to interact, touch, and play.
Moreover, the museum houses iconic items from the beloved show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. These include the original puppets, one of Fred Rogers’ sweaters, and his sneakers.
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh offers an extensive range of programs for children. These include dance, rocket building, quilting, robotics, and more. The museum also hosts visiting artists who offer workshops in a variety of media such as pottery, Japanese paper cutting, animation, and painting.
In addition to the in-house programs, the museum has an extensive outreach program that offers performances, workshops, after-school programs, artist days, and festival programs for schools and groups throughout the year. They also offer educational field trips for local schools, scouts, and other groups.
The museum has collaborated with a number of regional institutions and programs, such as the University of Pittsburgh and the Create a Comic Project.
Recognitions and Awards
The museum’s expansion project has received several awards, including a 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a National Trust for Historic Preservation award, and an award from the American Institute of Architects.
Furthermore, the museum’s Executive Director, Jane Werner, received the Green Building Alliance 2006 Shades of Green Leadership Award. This recognizes Werner’s contributions to making the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh a more sustainable place to live and work.