The Austin Children’s Museum will be known as the Thinkery when it opens Dec. 7 at the Meredith Learning Lab, the new name of the 40,000-square-foot building rising in the Mueller neighborhood, museum officials and major donors announced Tuesday.
The name change reflects the museum’s goal to be a hands-on learning experience for children of all ages with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art and math, Executive Director Mike Nellis said. The new name will take effect Sept. 1, when the museum’s current location at 201 Colorado St. closes.
The Meredith Learning Lab is named for Lynn Meredith, a past president of the museum’s board and the honorary chair of the capital campaign. She and husband Tom Meredith, the former Dell chief financial officer, and their children gave a $2 million gift to build the museum.
“We’ve chosen to support this facility because of the life-changing impact it will have on the children and families of Austin,” Lynn Meredith said. This is for “my grandchild and for others yet to come and for your children and all children to be.”
Nellis also announced that the museum is wrapping up the $18 million campaign for the building and exhibit installation and is focusing on the $2 million endowment fund.
The bright red building at 1830 Simond Ave. sits across from Lake Park at Mueller, and construction is expected to finish this month. It will house permanent and rotating exhibits to appeal to children 6 months to 11 years old. The new museum will open to test groups in November, with a public opening the weekend of Dec. 7-8.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Austin Children’s Museum, which has grown from a 5,000-square-foot facility on Fifth Street to the current 14,500-square-foot venue and now the new building.
The main exhibits downstairs will include the Innovation Workshop for younger children, leading to the Spark Workshop for older children and doors that open for messier experiments. A signature area offers space for rotating exhibits and larger permanent ones, starting with En Mi Familia, a bilingual exhibit that is returning to the museum.
Upstairs will be several labs, including Currents, a water exploration space; the Light Lab; and the Kitchen Lab, for kitchen and chemistry experiments that are staff-led. Let’s Grow will explore healthy eating through a mock farmers market. The Move Studio will have activities that center on movement, and the Bloom area is designed for infants to 3-year-olds. A story nook is upstairs.
The Thinkery will have free parking, something not provided at the current museum.
The Thinkery at the Meredith Learning Lab
What: New Austin Children’s Museum
Where: 1830 Simond Ave. in the Mueller neighborhood
When: Dec. 7-8 opening; soft launch in November for select groups