WILTON — A staple now for many families in the western Maine region, the Western Maine Play Museum at 561 Main St. has been creating stimulating experiences and environments that are interactive, engaging, and fun since 2019. Now entering its third year, the museum is in the process of bringing back some popular exhibits, adding new ones, and has many other exciting future plans in the works.

After having to close its doors for a brief time during the initial pandemic shutdown that impacted organizations across Maine last year, the museum has been reopened since September 2020 serving children and families in the Franklin County area and beyond.

“We’ve had our doors open for a year now with no interruptions,” said Joni James, WMPM executive director, according to a news release from the museum. “There are a lot of children’s museums that have not been able to reopen at all and I’m proud that we’ve stayed open, fully operational, and safe,” she added. James has been the lone museum staff member alongside a board of local volunteers, and occasional volunteer staff. More recently the museum has hired on two additional part-time staff members to help run the museum and imagine new ways to expand efforts.

This summer, the museum offered a successful assortment of outdoor camps that drew in close to 100 children in the area who got the opportunity to put on a virtual production of “The Little Mermaid” in collaboration with Sandy River Players, learn about different cultures around the world, and practice their creative skills through art. This fall, the museum is turning its focus to new and returning popular exhibits.

“We are excited to announce that the ball blower is back in business! It is so popular with the kids,” said Joni. “Another exhibit returning this fall is the blanket fort room, which is also very popular.” Part of the building room found on the first floor, the fort room features wall anchors, cloth, and clips all dedicated to creative fort construction. The museum is also looking forward to bringing back the interactive geologic sand table, which was originally built by Mt. Blue High School students. A new iteration of the sand table will provide kids with rice to play in, instead of sand. Another exhibit change is the nature room, which will soon refocus to be all about hibernation.

One of its newer exhibits found upstairs is the dark room, a scientifically based, interactive experience focused on the concept of light and its absence. Rotating activities and exhibits in this room include light tables with color transparencies, constellations and space, black lights, and shadow puppets, all teaching kids what darkness really means.

Another project in the works is the addition of a Pavilion which will replace the old barn that was located next to the museum until it was torn down this past fall. Plans are in the works to erect a three-season building with space for events and presentations, camps, parties, and other programming.

Stay up to date with more of the cool things happening at the Museum by checking out their new program calendar, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

The museum is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring children, connecting families, and building community through exploration, learning, and play. The museum envisions a community that is engaged and empowered because it nurtures the potential of all children as well as the families who support them.

The museum provides these opportunities to children through the donations of local businesses, families, and foundations. The following foundations have awarded much-needed funding in the past year: Bangor Savings, Davis Family Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, Franklin Savings Bank, Maine Community Foundation, and The Betterment FundAuction.

To learn more about how to support the museum, visit westernmaineplay.org.

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