A dedicated group of people have been working for over a decade to create a Children’s Discovery Museum in Sydney. Given my own view that Sydney is short on World-class museums, I can only applaud.
The Museum is backed by a non-profit organisation chaired by Dr. Doreen Clark AM FTSE. They see their mission as:
Modelled on the successful Children’s Museums found in every State in the USA, the facility will be of the same scale as the Powerhouse and the Australian Museums, but different from these institutions in that it is dedicated to an audience of 2 to 12 year-olds and their care-givers.
Children’s Discovery offers learning experiences through involvement in real life activities, such as exploring, building, entertaining and conserving the environment. Each theme is incorporated into a different creative gallery and modelled on a scale for children. We will develop a collection of objects, visual media and literature relevant to children’s museums for display and for teaching purposes.
Thus far, sadly, it appears to be more concept and vision than reality – as is evidenced by the confused tenses to be found throughout their website. They have a few roving exhibitions and many ideas but there seems to be no obvious home or serious funding on the horizon. It is one of the sad facts of life that Australia just doesn’t seem to attract the level of philanthropy available in other places, such as the USA, to get these type of projects off the ground.
Now I have to admit that I have reservations about the children’s discovery museums we’ve seen elsewhere. I think the line between ‘discovery museum’ and playground can get very blurred and I’m not convinced they often fulfil their educational goals. The kids always have fun pressing buttons, balancing on things, crawling about and so on but without a lot of structure and backing from great staff the activities are not ‘learning through play’, they are just ‘play’. So I’d far rather see something like the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum or a world-class science centre catering to a wider range of people up to and including adults. But if that’s not going to happen, at least the Children’s Discovery Museum has backing and some momentum and I’d dearly love to see it given a chance to show that such a museum can work.
Maybe it’s time to induce labour?