Carousel Wishes & Dreams

The centerpiece of this permanent exhibit on Level 4 is the restored 1917 Carousel that once stood in an amusement park on the eastern bank of the White River in Broad Ripple Village. Lined with finely carved and painted horses, deer, giraffes, a lion, a tiger, and goats created by the Gustav A. Dentzel Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and mounted on platform powered by a mechanism built by Mangels-Illions, a carousel manufacturer in Brooklyn, New York, it was a favorite of families for decades.

A ride on the Carousel is how many visitors end their day at The Children’s Museum.

The carousel came to The Children’s Museum due to the determination and detective work of former director Mildred Compton, who remembered it from the time when her children were young and she used to take them to what by then had become Broad Ripple Park. In poor condition then, the Carousel had been dismantled and stored away for years by the time Mrs. Compton went looking for it. Through negotiation and elbow grease, she rescued it from oblivion and had it installed on the top level of the museum’s 1976 building, which was under construction.

Popular with visitors from the moment it opened, the Carousel is a fitting focal point for a multigenerational gallery devoted to the wishes and dreams of childhood—and for older visitors, the memories of childhood. While the Carousel, which visitors of any age can ride, has been in place since 1976, the Carousel Wishes and Dreams exhibit came about 24 years later, opening in December 2000.

Taking over an adjacent space formerly occupied by display cases filled with the toy trains and a large, operating toy train layout, the gallery also includes a playhouse that once belonged to local resident Evelyn Lilly. Another iconic object in the museum’s collection, the playhouse was donated to the museum in 1996 by Indiana University Foundation, which received it as part of bequest from Evelyn’s father Eli Lilly. A games and puzzles arcade, a tree house, and a mirror maze round out the gallery’s collection of family-friendly activities. In Carousel Wishes and Dreams, parents and grandparents can share in the fun while sharing childhood memories with their children and grandchildren (who, in turn, will be creating their own).

Children explore the tree house in Carousel Wishes & Dreams.

The exhibit’s opening also was the impetus for the first of The Children’s Museum Guild’s children’s books about the museum—Carousel to the Stars. The book was written by Stuart Lowery, who was then in charge of the Ruth Allison Lilly Theater, and illustrated by local artist Andrea Eberbach. Capturing the whimsy and fantasy that Carousel Wishes and Dreams represents, the book was a reminder that Carousel Wishes and Dreams is the kind of place where children can let their imaginations run free and adults can remember the wishes and dreams that fueled their lives as youngsters.

Carousel Wishes and Dreams was made possible by many generous donors and supporters. Learn about the museum transformational donors