Years in the making, Baton Rouge’s newest museum will finally come to fruition this summer

After breaking ground in April 2015, construction is well underway on the Knock Knock Children’s Museum at City Park, which will open this summer. Remson Haley Herpin Architects designed the facility, and M.D. Descant Contractors is the general contractor. Staff photo

Rain delays might have slowed construction in 2016, but the much-anticipated Knock Knock Children’s Museum is expected to open doors on schedule in City Park sometime this summer. Quietly underway since 2010, the museum is the brainchild of a handful of community volunteers and education experts whose intent was to build a ground-up, best-in-class children’s museum catering to kids ages birth to eight.

The museum’s board of directors has raised $12 million thus far, says Peter Olson, who started work as the museum’s first executive director in mid-October. Olson left a 10-year stint at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota in Mankato, a similar ground-up project. He and the Knock Knock board, along with a forthcoming development director, plan to raise another $2 million before the museum opens, Olson says.

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“This really is going to show us to be a community that cares about investing in a better future for all children” —Peter Olson, executive director, Knock Knock Children’s Museum

The museum sits on a BREC-owned bluff overlooking City Park and is visible from Interstate 10 at Dalrymple Drive. It will have an annual budget of $2 million, 70% of which will support a 45-person staff. Olson says 14 of those positions will be full-time.

Olson says nationwide children’s museums are the most viable museum type.

“Children’s museums are better positioned than other museums to be sustainable because they generally see 60 percent of budget in earned income from ticket sales, including large groups and school tours, birthday parties and so on,” he says. “The other 40 percent is raised through an annual campaign and programmatic grants.”

The museum’s exhibits are organized in 18 themed interactive learning zones. The exhibits push early literacy, the arts, and science, technology, engineering and math learning through themes that highlight both city and natural elements. Cambridge Seven Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts, designed the exhibits. Nashville-based 1220 Exhibits is currently building them.

Olson says the museum’s content and interstate visibility position it well to draw regional families as well as those traveling between Texas and Florida. He says once doors open, there will be buzz about the exhibits’ quality and originality.

“This really is going to show us to be a community that cares about investing in a better future for all children,” Olson says. “It says, ‘This is what we’re about, and this is a good, good place to be.’”

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