Located along the Fort Point Channel in Boston, Massachusetts, the Boston Children’s Museum is one of the oldest children’s museums in America. For over a century, the museum has been an acclaimed industry pioneer, presenting revolutionary exhibits and designing unique hands-on learning experiences that have served as models for other museums around the world. In 2013, it was recognized for its contributions with the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the highest honor awarded to American museums and libraries.



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History

The Boston Children’s Museum opened on August 1, 1913. Originally conceived by the Science Teacher’s Bureau, a visionary organization dedicated to academic innovation, the museum contained only two exhibits at its opening, a bird display and a collection of minerals and shells. More displays soon popped up throughout the city’s schools as part of the branch extension program, which strived to make exhibits accessible to children in all areas of Boston.

In 1936, the museum moved from its original Pinebank Mansion location to a larger space a few blocks away on Jamaica Way, where it remained until 1979. It has occupied its current space on the Fort Point Channel for the past four decades, undergoing major expansions in 2007 that brought a host of new exhibits, along with a new theater, a landscaped outdoor park, and the massive glass-walled enclosure that currently adorns the front of the museum.

Permanent Collections

Arthur and Friends: This exhibit transports children to Elwood City for adventures with all their favorite characters from Marc Brown’s educational series. Activities such as a piloting simulator strengthen reading, writing, communication, and problem-solving skills through interactive dramatic play.

Art Studio: Rotating art activities in this studio are designed to correspond with other current museum exhibits, reinforcing themes through creative projects that parents and children can work on together.

Boston Black: Presented by the Ford Foundation, Boston Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, this groundbreaking exhibit encourages dialogue about race and heritage in the Boston community. Children can visit diverse locations modeled after real local neighborhoods to learn about the cultural history of Boston’s Haitian, Dominican, and Cape Verdean communities.

Carolyn and Peter Lynch Early Learning Gallery: The exhibit features two rooms of activities designed for the museum’s youngest visitors. PlaySpace offers safe, age-appropriate activities for ages 0-3, such as a toy train set and a soft play area, while Peep’s World brings WGBH’s Emmy award-winning “Peep and the Big Wide World” to life, giving pre-K children a headstart on developing STEM skills.

The Common: In the museum’s central activity area, children can play with large interactive displays such as shadow walls and a giant checkerboard. The area is also host to museum events such as musical performances and animal meet-and-greets.

Construction Zone and New Balance Foundation Climb: All the chaos and creativity of a construction zone comes alive in this playspace inspired by Boston’s Big Dig megaproject. Overhead, the New Balance Foundation Climb offers bird’s eye views of the construction progress from its three stories of climbing.

Countdown to Kindergarten!: Sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the exhibit allows children to explore a mock kindergarten class, participating in group activities that prepare children for the classroom environment. The classroom’s “teachers” are also on hand to answer questions from parents of children about to enter school.

Explore-a-Saurus: Anchored by an interactive animatronic dilophosaurus, the dinosaur-themed exhibit is a new museum favorite, teaching children STEM skills as they explore the Jurassic era firsthand. Children are invited to be a part of the ongoing scientific conversation about prehistoric creatures through activities involving fossils and skeletons.

The Gallery and Japanese House Gallery: Rotating art installations are hosted in these two galleries, which have sponsored artist-in-residency programs with Boston artists and arts educators.

Japanese House: The museum’s landmark exhibit, this rare authentic silk merchant house was a gift from Boston’s sister city, Kyoto, in 1980. Visitors can walk through all rooms of the fully reconstructed two-story townhouse to learn about Japanese family life and culture.

Johnny’s Workbench: Children can hone their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills in this interactive exhibit, which safely offers hands-on use of everyday power tools and hardware, including the chance to build a simple take-home woodworking project.

KEVA Planks: This playspace encourages children to explore math, physics, and design concepts through free play with popular KEVA Planks wooden architecture blocks.

Kid Power: Presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the exhibit focuses on interactive exercise activities, such as biking, climbing, and dance, to teach children about healthy lifestyles.

KidStage: Presented by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, the museum’s miniature theater repertoire company allows visitors to come on stage and be part of the show, interacting with professional actors to perform half-hour pieces designed especially for children.

John Hancock Science Playground: This favorite exhibit features playscapes such as Raceways, which lets kids explore the laws of motion by launching golf balls through a series of tracks, and the popular Bubbles playground.

Permanent Collections

In addition to its public exhibits, the museum maintains a private collection of historical artifacts, many related to a children’s history of civilizations. The collection predates the opening of the museum building in 1913, and today it holds more than 50,000 items. Items from the collection are used in special exhibits and distributed to classrooms as part of the museum’s educational kits program.

308 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

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