The mission of Chesapeake Children's Museum is to create an environment of discovery about oneself, the peoples, the technologies, and the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay area for all our children and for the children in us all.
A Grassroots Beginning: The first meeting was June 28, 1992. Debbie Wood placed an announcement in Chesapeake Family Magazine (then Chesapeake Children) and The Capital newspaper to invite those interested to discuss the possibility of creating a hands-on museum for children in the Annapolis area. There were at least twenty phone call responses. Over the next two years the group met monthly, planning and facilitating hands-on activities for children and families at their own and other groups’ community events. The first was a Back to School Fair, co-sponsored by the Broadneck Jaycees and the Arundel-Bowie Association for the Education of Young Children and held at Anne Arundel Community College. The theme was tied to a 500th historical anniversary – “Where in the World is Christopher Columbus?” Over the next two years there were about 20 more community events including the Quiet Waters Park Earth Day Celebration, the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival, and the Maryland Seafood Festival, through which the group spread the message about starting a museum, brought on more volunteers and developed hands-on activities.
The Chesapeake Children's Museum is Born: CCM incorporated in May 1994, and that summer a temporary home was offered in Odenton Elementary School. Exhibit areas were set up in adjacent classrooms; computer activities were available in a multi-station lab; and a wide range of materials for visual expression were stocked in a huge art room. Special programs and performances were planned around five themes, one for each week. One thousand visitors came to see what it was all about. Graciously, the next home was offered just before our time at Odenton Elementary was up thanks to the support of Jeff Franklin of Be Beep a Toy Shop.
For five and a half years, CCM had a rent-free home in the Festival at Riva Shopping Center in Annapolis. Exhibits and programs evolved in response to community interest and need. Participation continued in an increasing number of annual festivals and collaborations grew with various agencies and organizations - schools, scouts, churches, health centers, and other museums. In February of 2000, the shopping center became fully leased and the museum's space was needed for a paying tenant. It was time to move on. The community had indeed proven that this resource was needed and it was time to find a larger, more secure home to continue the museum's good works.
By Spring 2000, a temporary home was found at the Eastport Shopping Center, lasting just long enough for the next spot to open up at Eastport Elementary School. Knowing this would be a "summer home", the search continued.
The WYRE Building: The recently vacated WYRE building - owned by the City of Annapolis - was suggested as a refuge. The Youth Services Bureau had just moved out to newly refurbished digs at the Stanton Center. The 50-year old building, surrounded by 5 1/4 acres of city-owned parkland at the head of Spa Creek, was certainly usable for the museum's purposes.
With the encouragement of the mayor and support from some City Council members, a lease arrangement was pursued. An inspection by the city's Permits office revealed numerous code deficiencies (including the need for a sprinkler system). These needs had to be corrected before the museum could open, so a long-term lease became an obvious requirement to attract the investment of funds and manpower to fix up the place as a lasting home for the museum. In June 2001, a long term lease was approved. Building improvements and maintenance are the responsibility of CCM in lieu of rent. The lease is up for renewal every 5 years.
After 8 months of renovations, our doors opened to the public in November 2002.
The Present and Beyond: Thanks to a Maryland state bond bill, CCM is planning an expansion to add more group activity space on the lower level. A nature observation deck – with a habitat for an injured owl – is being planned for the back of the building. Matching funds and manpower are needed to move this along.
CCM is approved for Community Investment Tax Credits – through December 2012. For a donation of $500 or more – including materials for the renovations – an individual or business can claim 50% back on any income tax due to Maryland – that’s IN ADDITION to the regular deductions on state or IRS taxes for a charitable contribution.