Children's museum is on track to open Dec. 29

November 19, 1998|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Not to worry, Port Discovery, Baltimore's new children's museum -- the second-largest of its kind in the country -- really will open next month, museum officials announced yesterday at a last-minute press conference.

Speaking in the museum's cavernous atrium, where construction workers still toiled, Douglas L. Becker, chairman of the Port Discovery board and president of Sylvan Learning Systems, spoke optimistically of the $32 million museum's planned opening to the public on Dec. 29.

Until now, the museum has maintained a low profile, leading to public skepticism that it would open at all. Additionally, the museum's public opening date was delayed three weeks to allow construction crew and staff to put the finishing touches on the building and to make sure all exhibitions were in operating order.

Before the opening, Port Discovery, located in the Fishmarket Building at Marketplace, will celebrate with several events headlined by celebrities but limited to invited guests.

On Dec. 8, U.S. Education Secretary Richard W. Riley will speak at a reception for Baltimore's education and cultural communities; then on Dec. 10, television talk show host and Baltimore native Montel Williams will be the master of ceremony at Port Discovery's opening gala. The next day, talk show host Rosie O'Donnell will lead a "move-in" open to museum supporters. A breakfast for "First Families," major contributors to the museum, will be emceed by actor Michael J. Fox on Dec. 12.

This year, 22 million people are expected to visit nearly 300 children's museums across the United States. The largest such museum is the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Port Discovery evolved from the former Children's Museum at the Cloisters on Falls Road, which closed in 1994.

After agreeing to serve as board chairman, Becker tapped Walt Disney Imagineering and children's museum pioneer Michael Spock to join local education experts in designing a museum that entertains while it educates.

Port Discovery is being built around the theme of dreams and aspirations, and a Disney-designed team called the Dream Squad will set the tone for young visitors as they participate in the various exhibits and activities.

Museum admission will be $10 for adults, $7.50 for children 3 to 12 and free for children under 3. The atrium, an irreverent cityscape where programming will take place, will be free at all times.

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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