SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


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."

jpg Trawler Tim

"Trawler Tim" (the voice is Jeff Fitzwater of the First City Players) and Dawn Rauwolf
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," said Rauwolf.

"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 been opened.
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 for kids."

"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 through!"

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 in Ketchikan."

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 kids!"

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)

For an example of a children's museum the following link will take you to the Imaginarium in Anchorage, Alaska.


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]

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