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National Children’s Museum Means Changes for Federal Triangle

Beleaguered museum looks to make third time the charm

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, shown here in May, welcomed home the National Children’s Museum on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, shown here in May, welcomed home the National Children’s Museum on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the National Children’s Museum seeks to relaunch a half-block from the Mall, the Federal Triangle metro stop could get a rebranding of its own.

The museum — after years of nomadism and financial struggles — is slated to open in March, and a D.C. councilman says he will push to rename the stop.

While the idea is still half-formed, adding the museum name to the metro stop could boost visibility, D.C. Councilman Jack Evans said Monday at a tour of the construction site.

Limited public transportation was what drove the museum from its previous location at Maryland’s National Harbor in 2014. Before that, it spent decades at 800 Third St. NE.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton welcomed the museum’s return to D.C. as she previewed the space on Monday. “We can forgive you for leaving for a little while,” she said.

Norton sponsored the 2003 bill that gave the museum its “national” designation, scrapping its previous name, the Capital Children’s Museum.

“You were a wandering museum and you wandered your way back home where you belong,” she said.

“Home” is the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, where the museum is leasing space alongside the Environmental Protection Agency, Customs and Border Protection and others.  

Moving into the second largest government building in the country comes with challenges. The museum will have its own entrance and security, President and CEO Crystal Bowyer said.

The setting won’t seep into the exhibits, which will sidestep politics and history and focus instead on science, technology, engineering, art and math education.

“We do want to create a sense of place here in Washington, but we want to do it in a different way; it’s not about the federal government and politics,” said Bowyer, who previously worked at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

A focal point is the Dream Machine, a structure with a climbing wall and a slide that will greet visitors as they enter. 

The museum was designed with kids of all ages in mind. Tickets will cost $10.95, with free admission for children under 12 months. 

While the museum will compete with D.C.’s glut of free Smithsonian museums, Bowyer said she plans to refresh content often to stay relevant. Visiting interactive features will include a Dora the Explorer exhibit in Spanish and English.

Even though the museum’s new space is still covered in construction dust, Bowyer is already thinking of the next expansion. The museum is leasing 30,000 square feet in the Ronald Reagan Building, but Bowyer said she hopes to find the funds to grow the museum within the building in the next five years.

The museum received a $1 million grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and another from Nickelodeon, along with other funding.

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