By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
The National Museum of the Marine Corps (NMMC) in Triangle, Virginia, has been undergoing renovations and expansion, and is ready to debut its newest area, dedicated to the youngest visitors! The museum opens its new Children’s Gallery on Saturday, November 18, 2017, with special activities from noon to 2 pm.
The Children’s Gallery mimics the Museum’s theme of U.S. and world history as seen through the eyes of Marines but scaled down to kid size with hands-on interactive exhibits. Children are immersed in Marine Corps history, starting with the Corps’ birth at Tun Tavern in 1775 and traveling all the way to today’s Marine Corps.
“Most people think of the Museum as appropriate for a more mature audience, but we’re also a great place for children to discover Marine Corps history in an environment where they can still be a kid,” Laura Hockensmith, NMMC Education Chief, said. “This is a space where families can engage in the Corps’ history in a fun way.”
In each of the time periods represented in the gallery, children “meet” illustrated Marine guides through letters, postcards, and interactive elements designed to help young visitors understand what it’s like to serve at home and abroad. Among the activities, children can learn about the Colonial period through objects on the porch of Tun Tavern, the legendary birthplace of the Corps; walk through a WWI trench and look into “no man’s land” through periscopes.
The child-sized WWII era landing craft showcases the importance of the Corps’ amphibious capabilities. The landing craft’s moving pistons and the scaled down Korean War era helicopter’s working controls keep children engaged and learning. Young visitors also can try on modern uniforms and get a glimpse into how today’s warriors use technology to stay in touch with their loved ones.
Museum officials say the Children’s Gallery attractions are designed for children up to 10 years old, but guests of any age are welcome. Admission to the museum, as well as parking there, is always free.
During this two-hour celebration on Nov. 18, visitors and their young children who want to tour the exhibits in the new gallery can do so with timed entry tickets, available at the entrance of the museum starting at 9 am. Because museum staff anticipate a large attendance for this grand opening, each timed entry will be valid for 15 minutes of play in the gallery as tickets are available. All guests can tour the rest of the museum throughout the day, and the NMMC is planning on using these timed tickets only for opening day. Regular entry to the Children’s Gallery will begin on Sunday and the gallery will be open every day except Christmas, just like the Museum’s hours.
During the two-hour grand opening celebration, visitors and their young children will be able to walk through a giant star-shaped balloon arch to explore the new gallery, take silly photographs in a photo booth, get their faces painted with camouflage paint, play carnival games, and watch Lisa, the “Juggling Unicycle Gal” ride around Leatherneck Gallery on various sizes of unicycles and mini bikes while doing comedy, juggling, and magic. Visitors can also get a caricature drawn, watch a puppet show, play with a floor-full of LEGO, participate in activities for children under age five, play carnival games, and meet “Chesty” the museum mascot. Children can also pair up to read stories to therapy dogs with Tales with Tails: Reading to Therapy Dogs, where young readers can pair up with a therapy dog and read a story! Each young visitor will receive a limited edition wooden coin to commemorate their attendance.
The Children’s Gallery will open at 9 am to welcome its first guests at 9:15 am. The National Museum of the Marine Corps is located at 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway in Triangle, Virginia and is open 9:00 am –5:00 pm daily except Christmas Day.
Photos provided by the National Museum of the Marine Corps