History of Children’s Museums

Created over one hundred years ago, the first children’s museum derived from a need to make museum-going experiences less “serious” and more fun for children.

With interactive and hands-on experiences, objects within a children’s museum serve as tools to stimulate curiosity, motivate learning and address the developmental needs of children.

How Many Children’s Museums

Children’s museums represent the fastest-growing segment of the museum field. In 1975, approximately 38 children's museums operated in the United States. Today, nearly 248 children’s museums flourish nationwide and according to 2007 data, more than 30 million children and families annually visited children's museums. Outreach programs in non-profit children’s museums extended to nearly 4 million people in 2007.

Geographic Distribution of  Children’s MuseumsWhere They are Located

Thirty-five percent of children's museums are flagships in downtown revitalization projects.

Many are Green

The children’s museum industry has reacted to society’s need to become more environmentally aware. Fourteen children's museums have LEED-certified green buildings, while 26 museums are in the process of building a green facility. 12 percent of Association of Children’s Museum’s (ACM) member institutions have committed themselves to be green children's museums.

A Growing Commitment to Educate our Children

Eighty-one percent (up from 65% in 2004) of ACM museums have a dedicated early childhood exhibit space specifically designed for infants and toddlers.

  • Thirty-five percent of ACM museums have an outdoor exhibit and/or garden.
  • Forty-nine percent (up from 34% in 2004) run after school programs.
  • Sixty percent (up from 41% in 2004) develop curriculum materials.
  • Seventy percent (up from 47% in 2004) provide school outreach.
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