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April 22, 2022

Children’s Discovery Museum launches campaign to finish $1.6M build-out in Waterville

Courtesy / Children's Discovery Museum The museum's new location in Waterville is located in a former church building at 7 Eustis Parkway.

The Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine has launched a $350,000 capital campaign to complete the $1.6 million construction of its new home in Waterville. 

The museum, which has been serving the area for nearly 30 years, has already come up with more than $1.2 million from a variety of private, nonprofit and government funders. The build-out includes the creation of new exhibits and updates to a former church building the museum purchased in November 2020 at 7 Eustis Parkway.

“We’ve been working for many years behind-the-scenes to prepare this new location,” said Children’s Discovery Museum Executive Director Amarinda Keys. “So we are so excited to be approaching the finish line.”

The museum aims to open by the end of this year, but no firm date has been set, Keys said. Once open, the museum's annual budget is estimated to be $300,000.

The museum's new facility will be roughly three times the size of the previous one in Augusta, and will include a 3,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a gathering hall of similar size, a birthday party room, classrooms, offices and a kitchen, with room for outdoor exhibits and play places. The new site has been a work-in-progress for the last six years. 

The Augusta location, which closed in 2020 due in part to the pandemic, received about 10,000 visitors annually, while the new space in Waterville is expected to see increased attendance, the museum said.

The new exhibits are designed by Field Magnet LLC, led by Rusty Lamer, a Maine native with experience designing around the world, including California’s Chabot Space and Science Center. Architect Margaret Innes, owner of Studio e, is working on the building updates, including accessible bathrooms and a fire egress. 

The museum will include four zones.

In the Rural Zone, with a research cabin and a towering elm named Evelyn, children will nurture a connection to the outdoors. The Mill Zone will invite children to explore three historic mill industries — paper, textiles and shoe-making. An interactive City Zone will include a farmers’ market, auto shop, post office, hardware store, lemonade stand and restaurant. In the River Zone, geared toward the littlest museum-goers, a neighborhood of animal homes and aquatic plant forests will rise up from the floor to give children the sensation of moving underwater.

Courtesy / Children's Discovery Museum
A sketch shows the planned interior of the new Children's Discovery Museum in Waterville.

“The new Children’s Museum design is going to be a reflection of the community and a celebration of Central Maine,” said Keys. “We are intentionally working with local artists and designers and seeking input from community members as much as possible.”

Joel Lockwood, longtime museum board member, added, “This relocation and expansion project is so important to the central Maine area and beyond. It is the icing on the cake to the Waterville downtown revitalization. It will provide another reason why young families will choose to live, work and stay here when raising their children.”

The Discovery Museum is one of several museums and play places in Maine devoted to children. The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine in Portland opened in its new location at Thompson’s Point last year, while the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor earlier this month named a new interim director.

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