Eau Claire Children’s Museum hopes to reopen by its eighteenth anniversary

The new Eau Claire Children’s Museum will be finished later than first expected

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Conveniently located next to a parking ramp, construction is in full force of the new Eau Claire Children’s Museum.

Abby Johnson (She/Her)

After starting construction in Oct. 2021, the Eau Claire Children’s Museum has postponed its opening date to Dec. 2022, just in time for its eighteenth anniversary.

Before beginning construction, the museum was projected to open during November of 2022. However, due to difficulties with geothermal and solar panel installation — which will make the building run on 100% renewable energy — and the City of Eau Claire’s building requirements, the finishing date was postponed. 

The new $12 million museum, located downtown north of the Chippewa River on N. Barstow Street, will feature a total of 24 exhibits and a brand-new early childcare and 4K preschool program to be open year-round in its 3,000 square feet, two-story building.

In addition to a new location and building, the museum will be launching a new website in hopes to better inform the public about family and childhood development events that are to be held throughout the year.

Chief Operating Officer Mandy Runge said the new museum will create new opportunities for children living in the Chippewa Valley to further their development.

“We actually asked kids who came to the old museum what they’d like to see for exhibits in our new museum,” Runge said. “We want the museum to reflect what they’re interested in.”

In addition to refurbishing some of its older exhibits, a few of the new museum’s exhibits include a musical instruments room, a life-sized game bubble from the game, “Trouble” and a climbing wall. 

Additionally, the museum will maintain a year-round outdoor space where children can learn how to raise animals with an on-site chicken coop, engage in a farm-to-table garden experience and participate in outdoor sports during the winter.

Marge Moullette, a local grandmother, plans to buy year-long memberships for both of her grandchildren, one of whom was born during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The new museum will be a place for my grandchildren to go and learn, explore and mostly have fun in a safe environment,” Moullette said. “My youngest grandchild, who turns three this summer and has never experienced the old museum, I’m sure will be overwhelmed with curiosity and excitement of finally being able to go to the new museum to play and learn.” 

Runge said raising funds for the museum was a harder task to complete than previously thought because of the number of other businesses trying to raise funds to improve or re-build new buildings that are all close to the downtown area. 

“The Eau Claire Public Library, the Eau Claire Senior Center and the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire’s Sonnentag Event Center are the top three of the museum’s competitors,” Runge said. “We’re just one non-profit, and there are many others just like us trying to completely fund our project.”

Currently $3 million shy of their $12 million fund-raising goal, Runge is 95% confident they will be able to open and share the museum with children throughout the Chippewa Valley just before the end of the year.

“All of us who work at the museum are excited to see the community’s reaction when it’s all finished. Our community deserves this museum and so do the kids,” Runge said. “Kids learn through play, they learn through interaction at our museum, and we are excited to finally share our brand-new facility with everyone who has supported us in this project.” 

To find more information about how you can help donate to the Eau Claire Children’s Museum, visit their Capital Campaign webpage on their current website, https://www.childrensmuseumec.com/give/.

Johnson can be reached at [email protected]