More on the Children’s Mobile Media Museum, Toronto


The Children’s Own Museum is making a jubilant comeback

After nine years without a fixed address, those on board at the new COM are pumped up with a new optimism.

“I’m so incredibly excited. I’m totally regenerated. I was more fatigued the spring, thinking, I have to face the reality that this isn’t working, we might not be the group to do this,” says Che Marville, COM director, former developer of exhibits at the Ontario Science Center, and mother of 4. Even through the long fight to try to find a new space for the COM, she never stopped believing in her hands-on museum that caters exclusively to kids.

Now, the center that once permanently resided at the Planetarium next to the ROM is reinventing itself as a collaboration with the McLuhan Legacy Network. The new museum will serve kids with a dose of the ancient merged with the cutting edge (think vintage toys and ipad apps) from a travelling tractor-trailer that will make its way to neighbourhoods and schools around Ontario. The benefit of this is that it will bring exhibits to people who may not otherwise get to a museum. The museum is expected to be up and running in 18 months.

The unlikely collaboration with the McLuhan Legacy Network came about after the COM was driven out of its space in 2002 when the ROM reclaimed the space for storage. Marville was looking for an organization to donate remaining funding to when she met Robert Logan, McLuhan Legacy Network founder, physics professor, design enthusiast and collaborator with the man McLuhan himself. Together they created a vision of a new kid’s museum centered around McLuhan’s ideas to engage kids with history and technology.

What these two organizations have in common is their passion for storytelling. Humans, Marville explains, are hardwired for stories. “That’s how we get engaged, excited, for centuries we’ve been transferring knowledge like this – before there were classrooms. Elders in the community other people would take them and transfer them down … we wanted to create a mobile experience about transferring knowledge through interactive experiences”.

The first program planned to take place will be a “talking room”, a gathering of 20 seniors and 20 grade 4 kids who will tell each other stories and record them. The stories will go into the museums vault and be archived as content to build other programs. Marville can’t say exactly what will be done with the stories because she doesn’t know what they are yet. This experimental activity will be part of the process of finding out how kids interact with McLuhan’s theories.

But will kids get it?

Obviously, age will determine how the kids perceive the messages, but as Che says, one of her main goals is to engage parents. “One of the most critical pieces is to tell parents and caregivers and siblings that they are one of the most critical teachers for their child” she says. She’s also equipped with the stuff to make that knowledge accessible for kids – the Canadian Association of Toy Collectors with their 900 Canadian toys is on board to help, along with Loet Vos of the Museum of Childhood, who has a warehouse full of toys from around the world.

Even without the help of toy dealers, Marville is definitely well versed in family fun and has enough drive to probably single handedly operate the mobile tractor trailer museum.

“We did very well at the planetarium. We had 14 thousand people per year, and we were actually turning people away” she says. Aside from the McLuhan Legacy Network, a major institution, which can’t yet be named, is also partnering with the COM to make the magic happen.

Keep a look out for the mobile centre which will roll into the Greater Toronto Area next December.

Photo by dell photos via Flickr

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