A kids’ museum for the global village, Toronto

15Oct11

Heather Senst (left) will be the chairman and Che Marville president of the new Children’s Mobile Media Museum, a collaboration of the former Children’s Own Museum and the McLuhan Legacy Network. (Photo: Richard Lautens/Toronto Star)

October 14, 2011  –  Andrea Gordon, Family Issues Reporter

It’s an understatement to say Che Marville doesn’t give up easily. She has spent five years plotting, pitching and pounding the pavement for a space to resurrect the Children’s Own Museum in Toronto. But finally her persistence has paid off.

Now, as the result of an unlikely alliance forged over the last three months, a brand new museum is coming to town.

The project is a collaboration between the Children’s Own Museum and the McLuhan Legacy Networ

The Children’s Mobile Media Museum, merging the ancient and the cutting edge, will be “a dream for Ontario families and children,” says Marville.

The project is a collaboration between the Children’s Own Museum and the McLuhan Legacy Network, a group set up to promote the works of visionary Canadian icon Marshall McLuhan.

The notion of mixing the scholarly and the childlike may be unusual. But if all goes according to plan, the new museum will be, like McLuhan himself, ahead of its time.

It will be mobile, built on a tractor-trailer that will travel to neighbourhoods and schools around the province, says Marville.

It will also merge the historic and the leading edge, from vintage toys to iPad apps, and focus on helping kids learn, create and communicate using the latest digital technology.

“There is no museum like this and it could be an incredible draw for the City of Toronto and the province,” says Marville, a former developer of exhibits at the Ontario Science Centre who now teaches yoga and meditation and is a mother of four.

Marville, 40, has long been a believer that Toronto families need and deserve a hands-on museum that promotes early development and caters exclusively to children. That’s why she and fellow board member Heather Senst led the long fight to try and find new space for the well-loved Children’s Own Museum, which closed its doors in 2002. It had been located in the planetarium next to the Royal Ontario Museum, but the ROM decided not to renew the lease.

Senst, creative director at Astral Media, will be chairman of the new mobile museum.

The museum is “a thrilling opportunity” to introduce McLuhan to the next generation, says McLuhan’s son Michael, a photographer who lives in Owen Sound.

Today’s kids are steeped in McLuhan concepts like “the medium is the message” and the global village, says Michael. “They live and breathe them, but they don’t know who dad is.”

McLuhan, 59, will sit on the museum’s five-person advisory board and his son Arthur, 27, a PhD in sociology, will join the governing board.

It’s a good news story at a time when Mayor Rob Ford is looking to slash budgets for arts and culture organizations and local libraries.

“I’m excited and full of anticipation about what we’re about to do,” says Robert Logan, founder of the McLuhan Legacy Network and professor emeritus of physics with the University of Toronto. “Starting a museum in the Ford era, how cool is that?”

Logan, 72, worked with McLuhan for years in the 1970s.

He first met Marville in July when she approached him at one of the events celebrating the centenary of McLuhan’s birth, just when she was ready to abandon hope. They had lunch and the idea snowballed from there.

Logan says the museum has potential because of its focus on using interactive evolving technologies as learning tools.

“The possibilities are enormous, because we’re not building a dead museum with objects to be gazed at,” says Logan.

Logistics are still in the works. The mobile unit — which takes the exhibit to people who may not otherwise get to a museum — is expected to be up and running in about 18 months.

Though Marville couldn’t yet disclose details, she said the group is working with “a major institution” to develop it.

Visits to community centres will be funded, while schools and families will pay a small fee.

The first step is to raise $110,000 to fund a feasibility study and develop the concept, by applying to government agencies like Trillium and Heritage Canada and through corporate donations.

Creators are planning their first event in December called “the Talking Room” — a gathering of 20 seniors and 20 Grade 4 children who will tell each other stories and record them.

The sharing and gathering of stories from different communities will be part of the museum’s multimedia archives.   http://tinyurl.com/3fue6pq

 CreativeKids250x167

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