The Canadian Children’s Museum has been developed around a central theme — The Great Adventure — and gives younger visitors an opportunity to travel the world. Over 30 permanent exhibit spaces have been designed as a series of contextual environments situated along a random circulation route. Exhibit themes promote intercultural understanding and emphasize process rather than the acquisition of a detailed body of knowledge. A rich assortment of materials including props, costumes and hands-on artifacts supports open-ended, inquiry-based learning experiences. Based on a client-centred approach, the space facilitates small group interaction and immersion/role-playing.
The Canadian Children’s Museum opened on June 29, 1989, and is part of the Canadian Museum of History. During planning for the new Canadian Museum of Civilization building in 1982, a decision was made to incorporate a children’s museum. Children had always comprised an important percentage of overall attendance, although exhibits in the main museum were not generally designed with their needs in mind.
The Canadian Children’s Museum has grown steadily since its inception. In response to rising attendance and community interest, the second phase of the Children’s Museum opened in 1994 with 2,044 m2 (22,000 ft2) of exhibition space, along with an expansion in its programs and services. In 1995, the Children’s Museum outdoor park grew from 520 m2 (5,600 ft2) to 6,039 m2 (65,000 ft2), with an expansion of the physical landscape and the installation of outdoor exhibits. The exterior exhibit spaces were continually modified and supplemented with new exhibitions. In 2007, the Children’s Museum was again expanded with the addition of a larger temporary exhibition space and two new permanent exhibit areas. The Canadian Children’s Museum currently occupies a total of 8036.19m2(86,501.55 ft2) of interior and exterior space.
The Canadian Children’s Museum has continued to expand its client base as well as its partnerships and alliances, and has gained international recognition. The Children’s Museum plays an important role within the international community of youth museums, and is the national leader among children’s museums in Canada.
The Canadian Children’s Museum serves all Canadian children and remains one of the most popular destinations in the Canadian Museum of History, welcoming over eight million children and their families since 1989, with average annual attendance of 500,000.
The Canadian Children’s Museum aims to enrich children’s lives, broaden their cultural experiences and provide them with a creative space in which to learn about the world. It is committed to the promotion of intercultural understanding among children and improving cultural, social, and educational opportunities for children where they live, learn, work and play. First and foremost, the Children’s Museum is client-centred, specifically serving children up to age 16 and their families, schools and community groups.
The Canadian Children’s Museum is similar to other children’s museums, in that it is client-centred and targetted specifically at children and their diverse needs. It is a full-service facility encompassing exhibits, programs, collections, and social and operational services designed to meet the needs of its unique audience. Given that the overall wellbeing of a child is dependent on making connections between his/her cognitive, social, physical and developmental needs, this museum-within-a-museum considers not only the social needs of children in its planning and implementation, but also ensures that all areas function together to fully support the shifting cognitive and developmental needs of a growing child.
The Canadian Children’s Museum philosophically embraces a set of values mirroring those of its target audience, and provides a framework for the programs and services it provides. All Children’s Museum exhibits, programs, services and products stand for the following values, designed to support the rights of children while also helping children in learning to control their destinies.
The Canadian Children’s Museum is client-centred, not subject-driven, and meets the diverse ages and interests, cognitive, developmental, social and physical needs of children.
Rights of Children
The Canadian Children’s Museum offers a risk-taking, non-judgmental environment supporting a child’s right to develop to his/her full potential, on the way to becoming a responsible and caring adult. In the belief that children contribute to their own futures and must be given a voice, the Children’s Museum involves them in the development and planning of services and products. All aspects of the Museum’s programs, services and exhibits are designed with children, not just for children.
Recognizing the primary role of adults in a child’s learning and social experiences, the Children’s Museum partners with parents, teachers and child advocates in the development of services, products and programs.
The Canadian Children’s Museum recognizes the individual interests, skills and knowledge of its unique clients and provides an appropriate learning environment. Exhibitions and programs are designed for family members of varying ages to help them develop at their own pace and according to their own abilities. Contextual and interactive strategies are used to develop programs and exhibits. In addition, the Children’s Museum recognizes the importance of play in learning as both context and process.
To help broaden a child’s cultural experience, artifacts, props and other materials are incorporated contextually within exhibitions and programs, thus allowing the child to be an active participant within a multidisciplinary environment.
The Children’s Museum values quality products, and provides a safe, secure, nurturing environment using sturdy, durable and non-toxic materials.
The Canadian Children’s Museum provides an important first step in a child’s understanding of the arts, culture and history, and fosters the development of lifelong learning and museum appreciation.