YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When the Oh Wow! children’s museum reopens May 15, it will have a new entrance, a new look and new exhibits.
Oh Wow! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology closed in March with the onset of the pandemic.
The downtown Youngstown museum is using the down time to complete a $4 million redesign project, says Suzanne Barbati, president and executive director.
Construction began in late 2020 to re-orient the entrance from Federal Street to Central Square plaza, which will improve access and safety.
The project will also redesign the exhibit halls and classrooms are being redesigned and the décor refreshed. Barbati says the overhaul will further establish the museum’s reputation and contribute to the economic vitality of downtown.
Oh Wow! purchased the McCrory Building in which it is located from First National Bank in December 2019, with the support of local individuals, corporations and foundations, Barbati notes.
New exhibits planned for the grand reopening include a sensory sensitive room, a mental health exhibit titled “House of Shine,” and a microelectronics exhibit in partnership with Youngstown State University.
To survive the extended closing of the museum, staff was reduced by 64%, and remaining staff took voluntary salary reductions, Barbati says.
The board of directors made a special appeal to donors, increased the draw on the museum’s endowment, pursued and obtained new sources of government funding, held a successful Science of Brewing-Home Edition and forged new partnerships, Barbati says.
In place of the annual Silly Science Sunday in September, Oh Wow! created an at-home event in which families completed science-and-arts-related projects.