A Children's Museum in Ketchikan?
By Marie L. Monyak
March 20, 2006
Ketchikan, Alaska -The guest speaker at the Southeast Alaska
Discovery Center's Friday Night Insight Program March 17th was
Dawn Rauwolf who gave her charming and enthusiastic presentation,
"A Children's Museum in Ketchikan?"
Introducing herself as a concerned citizen, Rauwolf explained
how she came to Ketchikan twelve years ago at the age of 20,
worked on a fishing boat, became friends with her boss, the captain,
and that friendship led to the three adorable children whose
picture flashed on the theatre's projection screen.
After a bit of chuckling from the audience, Rauwolf realized
she had just disclosed her age but quickly recovering, she explained
the purpose of her presentation. Pointing to her children's
picture up on the screen she said, "My kids inspired me
to visit the children's museum in Tacoma, Washington. When we
went in I saw a sign that read; touch everything, use your inside
voice. I was so surprised, I usually have to tell my kids, don't
touch and look with your eyes not your hands."
(the voice is Jeff Fitzwater of the First City Players) and
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak
"When I came back home, I thought, gee I wish we could go
somewhere like that in Ketchikan. We do have some wonderful
places here in Ketchikan, the pool, the rec center, the wonderful
library, really great places but nothing like a children's museum."
Just as Rauwolf was about to explain what a children's museum
is, up popped Trawler Tim, a large puppet much like those seen
on Sesame Street, except Troller Tim was a white bearded old
boat Captain complete with yellow rain slicker.
Hidden behind a strategically placed curtain was Jeff Fitzwater
of the First City Players. Using his considerable talents and
his voice as Trawler Tim, Fitzwater was able to keep the children
in the audience captivated as Rauwolf continued.
"A children's museum is defined as an institution committed
to serving the needs and interests of children by providing exhibits
and programs that stimulate curiosity and motivate learning,"
"They're fun and built to a child's scale where they are
encouraged to touch everything with no time constraint,"
Rauwolf continued with enthusiasm, "children can develop
skills, they can imagine till their heart's content. It's another
choice people have for their children to encourage lifelong learning."
Rauwolf presented the audience with some facts and statistics
about children's museums since the very first one was founded
in Brooklyn, New York in 1899 as an offshoot of the Brooklyn
Museum of Art.
One large city after another opened a children's museum in the
first half of the twentieth century; Boston, Detroit, Indianapolis
and Portland. In 1975 there were approximately 38 children's
museums in the United States and by 1990 and additional 100 had
Based on Rauwolf's research there are currently an additional
66 emerging children's museums in this country alone.
Rauwolf mentioned, "A brand new children's museum opened
on Bainbridge Island just last month and another called Kidquest
opened this past December in Bellview and they have already had
over 60,000 visitors to date. Even Anchorage has the Imaginarium
"I would love to have one here in Ketchikan because we're
unique," Rauwolf said. Not forgetting the children in the
audience, Trawler Tim popped his head up and asked what unique
meant. Settling on "different" as a suitable definition,
the puppet proceeded to entertain the children for a few more
minutes before disappearing to change out of his rain slicker.
Rauwolf continued, "We would be different than say, a museum
in the Florida Keys or the Midwest. A Midwestern museum might
have a cow that the kids can simulate milking. Here we would
incorporate things that are unique to Southeast Alaska."
Someone in the audience asked if that meant a waterslide! After
a bit of laughter Rauwolf said, "My vision of what we could
have here would be a collection of temporary exhibits that would
rotate every 18 months. We could offer exciting programs and
workshops, a place where kids can come in and work with all types
of mediums; papers, paint, sand, water."
Rauwolf enthusiastically explained, "We want a nature area,
a science area, the kids can experiment with magnets, they can
make their own slime and play dough."
Holding a multicolored orb the size of a basketball, on loan
to her from Kathy Graham, Rauwolf opened it to its full size,
approximately four and a half feet in diameter and explained
that it was just one example of a toy that kids can crawl inside
of or roll around while learning at the same time.
Continuing with her vision, Rauwolf said, "There would be
a toddler area, safe and small enough for them to crawl around
and find everything on their own level. We would have a water
table, paint table, sand table. There would be a dress up area
where kids would be able to put on costumes that are unique to
Southeast like a Coastie uniform, a divers outfit, firefighters
uniform, lumberjack and so on."
After seeing a cut down helicopter in a children's museum in
Mesa, Arizona, Rauwolf stated that she wants a real floatplane
and a real wheelhouse built to scale with buttons to push, throttle
to turn and knobs to pull. She said, "We can celebrate
our uniqueness with a plane or boat."
Speaking as the mother of three toddlers herself, Rauwolf firmly
stated, "We would also have a place for mothers to nurse
while watching their other children and a place for the kids
to eat their snacks because we all know they need their snacks!
Addressing the mothers in the audience Rauwolf said, "You
all know how hard it is to raise your leg and hold your child
on your knee while trying to wash their hands, we would have
to have a restroom with low profile sinks and toilets and paper
towel dispensers." As an after thought, she added, "Oh,
and the doors would be wide enough for a double stroller to fit
With endless enthusiasm, Rauwolf spilled forth more and more
ideas. "We want to encourage positive interaction between
parents and kids, between grandparents and kids. To give Big
Brothers and Big Sisters, teachers and child care providers a
place to interact."
Rauwolf was firm in her decision that the museum would be non-judgmental
and celebrate the diversity of all cultures and ideas.
Once again, Trawler Tim popped his head up and asked what it
would take to get started. Rauwolf said, "We need a location
and we need to obtain the necessary funding. We also have to
apply for non-profit status and build a board of directors."
Asking the audience for volunteers, Rauwolf said, "We need
general support from the community, if anybody is interested
we can use your help. Tell your friends, families, community
leaders, invite us to speak at you business or organization."
In closing Rauwolf said, "I hope for this to become a reality
A woman in the audience asked if Rauwolf had any ideas for a
location to which Rauwolf replied, "I thought maybe in the
old White Cliff School or maybe rent a building in Newtown."
Another member of the audience asked Rauwolf if she had contacted
anyone from the City yet. Pointing out City Council member Kj
Harris in the audience, Rauwolf said, "I called Kj and he
told me if it's for kids he's interested, he'll do anything for
The next Friday Night Insight program will be held on March 24th
at 7:00 P.M. Bill Standley, former field forester on the Tongass
National Forest visited New Zealand three times for mountaineering
trips since 2004. Standley will present a slide show of the
Mt. Aspiring region of New Zeland's Southern Alps.
Anyone with ideas for a children's museum in Ketchikan or willing
to volunteer or serve on the board of directors should call Dawn
Rauwolf at 247-6443 or contact her by email at paerlu5(AT)hotmail.com
For an example of a children's museum the following link will
take you to the Imaginarium in Anchorage, Alaska. http://www.imaginarium.org/
Marie L. Monyak is
a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
who produces and sells articles to a publisher such as SitNews.
Contact Marie at mlmx1[at]hotmail.com
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