1988 Welcome Center
Designed by the architecture firm of Woollen, Molzan and Partners, the museum’s first Welcome Center opened in 1988, marking the completion of the first phase of a $15.8-million expansion project. The project had begun two years before with the launch of a fundraising campaign dubbed “You Can Build a Mind.” The successful campaign not only led to a new entrance lobby and an expanded museum store, but also two new galleries for temporary exhibits, one of which (Johnson-Weaver Pavilion) became the permanent home for the Museum Guild’s annual Haunted House.
Also unveiled in 1988 were a huge sunburst window in the lobby and a Water Clock designed by French physicist-artist Bernard Gitton. One of only seven such clocks in the world, Gitton’s creation quickly became one of the museum’s most popular attractions.
In November 1989, phase two of the expansion, the SpaceQuest® Planetarium, opened to the public. Also designed by Woollen, Molzan and Partners, the Planetarium housed a computer-driven Digistar projector under its copper-topped dome, one of only six then in use in the world. The largest facility of its type in Indiana, SpaceQuest Planetarium immediately attracted school groups, scout troops, and families interested in astronomy, space travel, and other extraterrestrial subjects.
In May 1990, the expansion project culminated with the opening of the Eli Lilly Center for Exploration(a.k.a. CFX, and in later years, the Center for Arts Exploration or CFAX). The 15,000-square-foot gallery was orginially designed for 10- to 18-year-olds, with an emphasis (as its name suggested) on exploring topics in depth. The first CFX exhibit was the NASA-supported Space: The Next Generation, which looked at the future of space exploration. Hoosier astronaut Kenneth Bowersox talked about his experiences at the opening.
The Minds-On Museum
When the expansion was in its initial phase, the museum had mounted an exhibit called Structures, which gave visitors a chance to learn about construction by building their own museums and skyscrapers. At the time, director Peter Sterling had called The Children’s Museum a “minds-on” museum, a label that was exemplified by the Water Clock, which illustrated principles of physics, the planetarium, which focused on astronomy, and CFX, which stressed learning through experimentation and exploration.
“We’re expanding not only our space,” Sterling said of the expansion project in the museum’s 1987 annual report, “but also our opportunities as more people each year learn what a great place this is to build young minds.”