By Sally Miskavige, Grand Forks Children’s Museum Vice President
Moving forward from the many successes of 2023, as well as the successful fundraising - which thanks to generous donations, state and local funding and grants, has amassed nearly half of the funds needed to begin construction of the Grand Forks Children’s Museum - the planning efforts and the related design work has now expanded exponentially.
Simultaneously with construction planning, exhibit planning is well underway and is a critical path for the success of the museum. The team selected for the exhibit design is Toboggan Design, under the leadership of Laurent Carrier and Kurt Hibchen. From the Toboggan website: “Toboggan provides design-consulting services for a wide range of projects, from creation of innovative small consumer products to planning and building of large-scale, “playful and mindful” learning environments. With a consistent concern for innovation and prototyping, they value new and creative approaches to design.”
The Grand Forks Children’s Museum exhibit committee is working with Toboggan to create the initial design concepts. These plans will allow us to discuss, review, visualize and augment the final exhibit designs. Once completed, Toboggan will then begin the construction and ultimately the installation of these exhibits, once the museum building is completed.
Last week’s meeting with the Toboggan designers began to define and visually crystallize the first floor of the museum. The Grand Forks Children’s Museum will be a distinctive two-story structure, with the first floor named LAND - fueling visitors' curiosity and imagination- and the second floor called SKY - propelling one’s imagination and inspiration to new heights. Connecting these levels both thematically and physically is GROW, a vertical climbing maze that adds an exhilarating element to the overall experience.
The initial designs for the first floor’s Land theme include:
1. Habitat – seeing the land through the lens of those who settled here.
2. River Valley – Red River, water, and the vital role it plays.
3. Fields – quality of the land that allows for our agricultural success.
The natural habitat and fields of North Dakota are integral to the success of the many farmers who harvest wheat, soybeans, edible beans, chickpeas, corn, sunflowers, potatoes, sugar beets and so many other area crops. Our land exhibit needs to highlight the diverse opportunities that the land provides as well as reflect its heritage, while acknowledging the ancestral territories and the peoples who settled this land. As we know, every living organism needs water, and this exhibit will highlight the importance that the river valley and water are to life and to the area’s habitats and farms.
“Our goal is to provide a hands-on, interactive, and immersive experience. We know that children learn through open-ended play. We envision an exhibit that creates both a real and a virtual world in which children can enter the exhibit, choose a range of variables, and see how it affects change in that environment” said Alexandra Quanrud, the Grand Forks Children's Museum Exhibit Committee Chair.
“So many parents grew up attending museums as children where the museum had the same display year after year… the Grand Forks Children’s Museum needs to be dynamic, so that each time an attendee visits, they have a unique experience,” said Mrs. Quanrud. “We believe that our exhibits will need to evolve and present new challenges and new discoveries with each visit. We want to help children develop their natural curiosity and facilitate their own self-driven exploration. We want to bring multi-sensory exhibits that create both a ‘wow’ factor and that helps a child to learn and enjoy learning,” she continued.
Keep an eye on the website and our social media pages, as we will present ideas and concepts for your review and input. As the Grand Forks Children’s Museum has the potential to be a key community resource, we want feedback and input from our neighbors, teachers, community leaders, volunteers, and donors – our entire community.
Oh, and it’s a secret…with the wonderful views of the Northern Lights that we frequently experience in Grand Forks, we are working hard to bring a unique addition to the Sky (second floor) exhibit…so stay tuned.