Historical Society to Open a Children’s Museum

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The DiMenna Children’s History Museum, as it will be known, is part of the $60 million renovation of the historical society building on Central Park West, Louise Mirrer, the president and chief economic officer of the museum, said this week. The roughly 4,000-square-foot museum has been designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture & Design Partnership with a $5 million donation from Joseph A. and Diana DiMenna.

The new museum will focus on the stories of children, from famous figures like Alexander Hamilton, who came to New York as a teenage orphan to attend college, to the boys and girls who hawked newspapers on city streets 100 years ago.

The mini-museum’s artifacts, some of them never exhibited before, will be drawn from the historical society’s vast collections, said Valerie Paley, the society’s historian for special projects. Aimed at roughly a fourth-grade level, the information in the exhibits will nevertheless be intended to appeal to all ages, she said, adding that educators helped select a diverse group of historical figures to illuminate different aspects of history.

Though the number of children’s museums around the country has grown tremendously in recent decades — there were 243 of them in 2007, with another 78 in the planning stages, according to one study, compared with 38 in 1975 — the DiMenna museum will be one of very few history museums for children. Since becoming president in 2004, Ms. Mirrer has sought a new prominence for the historical society, and the children’s museum is part of that effort.

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Donna Nordmark Aviles - 1/23/2010

This is amazing news for all those who have worked so hard for so many years to bring back the forgotton history of the orphan trains. Now recognized as the forerunner of our foster care system, the orphan trains transported over 200,000 children from NYC to farms in the Midwest in search of homes. My heartfelt THANKS, on behalf of my grandfather, Oliver Nordmark (who rode in 1906), goes out to Joe & Diana DiMenna as well as Louise Mirrer for their contribution and vision! Donna Nordmark Aviles