29 June 2010

Detroit Children's Museum to Reopen with Facelift

Associated Press

The Detroit Children's Museum, which was shuttered last year amid cost-cutting by the city's school district, has reopened with revamped exhibits, a new preschool area and more of its thousands of artifacts on display.

Hands-on components are now incorporated into all exhibits, museum director Julie Johnson said. Newly displayed items include the skull of an extinct mammal Andrewsarchus, masks and Civil War artifacts.

The museum previously was run by the cash-strapped Detroit Public Schools, which closed it last August. It's now being operated by the Detroit Science Center under a 10-year agreement that is expected to save the state's largest district $11.9 million. The museum reopened June 26.

"We didn't lose this gem," Johnson said. "It's been here since 1917. This is a very important part of Detroit."

The district still owns the museum, which has more than 100,000 artifacts. New acquisitions will belong to the Science Center, which has brought in some if its displays such as a towering model Tyrannosaurus rex.

"The Detroit Children's Museum was not a core part of our operations," Robert Bobb, the district's state-appointed emergency financial manager, said in statement. "The museum needed to be given the stability of not being in the annual school budget cycle."

The 93-year-old museum houses dinosaur bones, dioramas, costumes and dolls from around the world. It also has an extensive collection of rocks, fossils and crystals, some of which are being presented in new displays.

The new preschool area will include a puppet theater and live turtles. And some of the museum's mainstays remain, including a stuffed Bengal tiger named Champ in an expanded animal exhibit and the horse sculpture "Silverbolt" outside.

In the main exhibit hall, more than 500 items are on display - about twice as many as a year ago, Johnson said. In one display, a large doll house that sits behind glass is paired with another where children can play with dolls.

The museum - not affiliated with the Detroit children's hospital - mostly had been used for field trips, Johnson said. Those will continue, with programs available for schools, daycare groups and community centers, but the Science Center also plans to promote the museum for family visits.

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