The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 26, 2011

Mankato Children's Museum finding ways to spend $100K grant

MANKATO — The Mankato Children’s Museum has received a grant of $100,000 and hopes to announce soon its newest temporary location.

The grant comes from the Legacy Amendment, and Director Peter Olson says the funds will help the museum develop, plan, build a prototype for and test the components that will go into the permanent museum.

Olson said that at the museum’s play lab last year, prototypes were built that helped museum staff study play conditions. Now, based on that research, they’ll build exhibits that will eventually be used by children who visit the museum.

But the bigger question still unanswered is where that museum will be. A search is under way for both a temporary location as well as a permanent location.

When they find it, Olson says people will be impressed with both the quality of the exhibits and the thought that has gone into the design.

“For over a year we’ve been planning out what the gallery concepts are going to be for the permanent museum,” Olson said. “Local advisers with diverse perspectives along with nationally recognized experts worked to determine what would be the best exhibits. The concepts are meant to reflect the characteristics and culture of our region, as well as connect children to the larger world.”

In other words, in the permanent museum, you will find a quarry, you will find a farm, and you will find lots of water. Each element reflects our community and culture, and the exhibits in the museum will reflect those things.

But, of course, no one will see the exhibits until sites are found.

And they can’t use any of that Legacy Amendment money to, say, make a down payment on a place. Legacy money can only be used for programming. It cannot be used for rent or to pay salaries.

“We’ve been talking to anybody we can find who has an empty building that’s at least 3,000 square feet,” Olson said, “but we haven’t been able to lock in a space.”

The last two spaces, he said, were both donated.

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