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Access For All

The Magic House President Beth Fitzgerald talks about partnering with PBS Children's Television Network to provide Access for All children

“If you think back to your elementary school years, it’s usually a blur except for the day you went on a field trip or the day you visited a museum,” said Beth. “Those days are very clear in your mind. We know that when a child comes here, it’s a memory for a lifetime.” 

How does partnering with PBS National fit with The Magic House’s Access for All initiative?

PBS National has asked us to be their official partner for developing traveling exhibits based on their new shows. PBS sees this as an alliance between educational children’s television and educational children’s museums. The Magic House develops nationally traveling exhibits; therefore, this partnership will create more collaborations between children’s museums and local PBS affiliates. This new partnership comes from the St. Louis PBS station being so strong and collaborative with us.  

How do you choose your exhibits? 

We are committed to creating cultural exhibits. St. Louis is becoming a more diverse community. Children are growing up in a more global world. Our strategic planning committee is constantly thinking about how we can help children prepare for that future and what is essential in children’s lives at this moment. We have an education advisory committee made up of many key educators in the region who give us advice. We want children and families to develop empathy and interest in other cultures. We’ve celebrated cultures with a series of exhibit experiences: Children’s China, Kenya’s Kids, Argentina’s Ninos, and now Namaste India.

How authentic are those experiences? 

We want to be a museum that is full of joy and discovery, but we come from a serious place. When designing exhibits, we try to change children's perspectives about themselves and their lives. We work with the Mosaic Project in St. Louis to guide us because we want to make sure we are representing cultures authentically. Our cultural exhibits are an opportunity to build new relationships with immigrant communities. Betsy Cohen with the Mosaic Project noted that the Indian population in St. Louis is our largest immigrant group. That is unique to St. Louis. 

The entire fabrication for Namaste India was the work of one man - David Busch, who lives in Kirkwood. He brought this exhibit to life.

What are the upcoming cultural exhibits?  

With the new PBS opportunity, our next cultural exhibit is on native Alaskans. A top-rated PBS show is called Molly of Denali, about a young and adventurous native Alaskan girl. Her whole family is native Alaskan. Her mom is a bush pilot, and her dad runs a trading post and is a wilderness guide. That allows us to talk about the geography and history of Alaska.

The other exhibit coming up is Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum. It’s a time-traveling show where children are transported back to important moments in history. They meet historical figures as young children and learn what influenced them to grow up and become historical heroes. The message is that every child can be a hero, and every child can make a difference.


How does The Magic House provide access for all children in our community? 

We look at the areas of the community that may have the most challenging time bringing children here. Any school that is a title 1 school can come for free. We will find the money. We have a program where all foster families in the entire state of Missouri can come for free. Any active-duty military family visits for free. And all schools in Kirkwood can take field trips for free. 

We opened a second location in the city of St. Louis in June 2019 to expand our reach in our region. We positioned this maker space on 5127 Delmar Boulevard to help bridge the gap along the Delmar divide. We were fortunate to have some wonderful partners – Cortex, Jim, and Anna McKelvey. Jim’s vision is to create an entire maker’s district. It’s a wonderful vision, and we are fortunate to be part of this new maker’s district. 

What is new at The Magic House in 2021? 

We partnered with local artist Peat “Eyez” Wollaeger for our EYEZonTRAIN exhibit. We’ve created a 3-dimensional train decorated with Peat’s famous “Eyez.” The exhibit is a piece of art and a fun experience for children who want to pretend to drive a train. 

For older kids, we added the Bayer STEM Pathway, our first total technology exhibit. The idea is for children to envision themselves in the future by creating their own “STEM-oji.” Interactive video games help them discover careers they might want to explore, like robot repairman, vertical farmer, and drone pilot. The STEM Pathway also features contemporary STEM Hall of Fame scientists who have developed important technologies for children. For example, Hedy Lamar, a famous actress, created Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. 

We just opened Wonder Why, a new area for early childhood parents that provides parenting tips and activity ideas that parents can do at home with their children.

What’s on the horizon for 2022?

We are excited because, in May of 2022, we will be hosting the Association of Children’s Museums’ national conference.  There is an award called the Great Friend of Kids Award given to a national person or organization that significantly impacts children. PBS will be receiving this award and we will showcase the two new PBS Show exhibits during the national conference.