Discovery museum

Children’s Discovery Museum launches campaign to complete $1.6M construction in Waterville

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

The museum, which has served the area for nearly 30 years, has already raised more than $1.2 million from various private, nonprofit and government funders. The construction includes the creation of new exhibits and updates to an old church building that the museum purchased in November 2020 at 7 Eustis Parkway.

“We have worked for many years behind the scenes preparing for this new location,” said Children’s Discovery Museum Executive Director Amarinda Keys. “So we’re delighted to be approaching the finish line.”

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

The new museum facility will be approximately three times larger than the previous one in Augusta and will include a 3,000 square foot exhibit hall, a similarly sized assembly hall, birthday party hall, classrooms, offices and a kitchen, with room for outdoor exhibitions and play areas. The new site has been under construction for six years.

The Augusta site, which closed in 2020 in part due to the pandemic, received around 10,000 visitors a year, 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 design experience around the world, including the Chabot Space and Science Center in California. Architect Margaret Innes, owner of Studio e, is working on updates to the building, including accessible bathrooms and a fire escape.

The museum will consist of four areas.

In the rural area, with a research cabin and a towering elm tree named Evelyn, children will develop a connection to the outdoors. The Mill Zone will invite children to explore three historic mill industries – paper, textiles and shoemaking. An interactive urban area will include a farmers market, auto store, post office, hardware store, lemonade stand and restaurant. In the River Zone, intended for the youngest museologists, a district of animal houses and forests of aquatic plants will emerge from the ground to give children the sensation of evolving under water.

“The design of the new Children’s Museum will be a reflection of the community and a celebration of central Maine,” Keys said. “We intentionally work with local artists and designers and seek input from community members whenever possible.”

Longtime museum board member Joel Lockwood added, “This relocation and expansion project is so important to the Central Maine region and beyond. It’s the icing on the cake for the revitalization of downtown Waterville. It will provide another reason why young families will choose to live, work and stay here to raise their children.

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