August snuck up on us and WonderLab’s reopening came quickly into focus, like a shining light appearing through foggy dusk. The excitement among our staff could barely be contained. The thought of seeing guests come together in our space to reconnect with one another fueled us during the preparation that was required before we could open the museum for all of YOU.
Wow, has it paid off! The anxious, smiling eyes and excitement as you wait, desperate to play and learn, is a reminder of the museum’s impact. We are ecstatic to welcome everyone back to our building and have some exciting changes for your exploration, in addition to retaining many of the features our guests have come to expect at WonderLab.
Since reopening a few weeks ago, we’ve had tons of opportunities to reconnect with you! Every moment we get to share with our WonderLab community is special and valuable. Visitors have managed to enjoy our exhibits with a bit of curation from staff, often noting how comfortable they felt using our space despite new processes or exhibits. Ranging from the thrill of seeing a bubble bigger than you appear right before your eyes, to the side-eyed glance of a toddler nervous to meet someone new, each moment is exciting and reinvigorating. Staff have been continuing to foster engagement with the exhibits but spend much more time watching, seeing how our visitors react to the museum’s subtle changes. Members and other repeat visitors are excited to return to WonderLab for playful exploration, many on their first public venture in many months, while others may be seeking familiar faces, many of those not the faces of people.
The human elements of WonderLab aren’t the only ones excited to have you back; our animal ambassadors have been thrilled to see all of our visitors return to the museum too! Mooch, the blue-tongued skink, has been more active than ever, burrowing around his habitat, lounging up front to say hi to everyone that walks past, and showing off his bright blue tongue to anyone willing to admire it. The corn snakes have been extra slithery also, choosing to spread their long, slender bodies across their space, showing off those stunning, varied patterns and strong muscles. At the aquarium, the fish can be observed tracking visitor’s every move, following them around with a flourish of brilliant colors. We can’t wait to see what these critters do next as they continue to see their favorite faces, YOURS!
Our top priority in reopening has been creating a space that is safe for everyone to explore, and you’ll notice new measures in place throughout your next journey with WonderLab! New exhibit kits, the masks we all wear to protect each other, and some updated guidelines for interacting in the museum are some strategies that make the museum safer without removing any of the educational fun that makes WonderLab, well, wonderful.
As an added measure, we are featuring some new and returning touchless exhibits! If you remember our exhibit of illusions, you may see a familiar face on WonderLab’s first floor beneath the climber (a famous scientist named Albert whose gaze follows you while walking through the museum.) Perhaps you’re more interested in looking at yourself through a wacky, morphing mirror, turning your once familiar face into some alien figure. Our fun-house style mirrors are fascinating, can raise all kinds of questions for the young mind, and continue with the theme of touchless interacting we have focused on.
Maybe you prefer to use your ears instead of tricking your eyes. Our new exhibit, the Big Piano, would be perfect for you! Few exhibits in the museum have inspired such excited play as the Big Piano, and that goes for both visitors and staff. Sometimes this consists of practice and accurate, masterful execution, but most of the time unplanned stomps create a cacophony of arhythmic notes that sound equally chaotic and amusing. One particularly small piano player takes the cake, as their lightweight jumps weren’t heavy enough to activate the keys, but that didn’t stop them from having a blast! Sometimes it’s the music in our heads that keeps us going and often we find that the process is as important as the outcome.
At this time, more than ever, it’s important for us to stay connected. Those connections might look a little different than they did before, but that only makes them even more essential. We’ve seen WonderLab as a space for these connections over the last weeks, with the youngest guests seeing people that look like them for the first time in months. We are enlivened by what we have seen and will continue to provide these opportunities for all our visitors to engage in play-based learning in the safest manner possible.
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Hunter Miller is a Museum Experience Manager at WonderLab. He loves all things learning (especially science!), which has led him to teach about space, excavate mammoth fossils, and explore the outdoors. Hunter spends much of his free time in the kitchen, exploring how science and art can come together to create something delicious through food!