The New Children’s Museum: San Antonio’s Hands-On Learning Laboratory for Kids

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The San Antonio Children's Museum – er, Do Seum – construction as seen from Lion's Field. Courtesy photo.

The San Antonio Children's Museum – er, The Do Seum – construction as seen from Lion's Field. Courtesy photo.

Robert Rivard Headshot 250x250 (1)In time, maybe we will simply call it ‘The Do,” and children throughout South Texas will clamor to go there. The child in every parent will be teased out, too, by the colorful campus, artfully designed buildings and the many interactive exhibits that will beckon the visitor.

The San Antonio Children’s Museum is still more than a year away from opening its new 5.5-acre campus at 2800 Broadway St. at the corner of East Mulberry Avenue, but today is the first big public party celebrating its coming transformation. It’s all happening across the street at Lion’s Field Park from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Anyone who drives Broadway south of Hildebrand has watched in recent weeks as a blank canvass bulldozed out of a former auto dealership has quickly given way to a puzzle of shapes and colors that have seemingly landed from space on the landscape across from Brackenridge Park.

SA Children's Museum Construction Aerial

With the new home set to open June 2015 comes a new name: The Do Seum. It’s a change intended to communicate this will not be a traditional museum – a set of buildings where art is curated and exhibited. The Do Seum will be a hands-on sensory experience inside and outside.

The San Antonio Children's Museum – er, Do Seum – construction as seen from Lion's Field. Courtesy photo.

The San Antonio Children’s Museum – er, The Do Seum – construction as seen from Lion’s Field. Courtesy photo.

Museums post signs: Do Not Touch. The Do Seum’s message: Please Touch. Please Experience.

The Do Seum will be more than a new venue. It also will place a new emphasis on interactive science and technology, art and literacy.

What’s really being built is a science, technology and innovation university for children, a place designed to spark imagination, creativity, serendipity and surprise. A place where learning and having fun are synonymous. A place children will want to come back to again and again, and a place where the inner child in every adult escapes for a while, too.

“We have created a place where children get excited about concepts in science, math, art and literacy, and take that excitement with them into the world,” said Vanessa Lacoss Hurd, the museum’s executive director. “Children learn by doing, so we put doing right in the name.”

The new facility will feature 65,000 square feet of exhibit space, 50% larger than its current East Houston Street facility, and 30,000 square feet of outdoor space with free parking for 240 vehicles.

Lake/Flato Architects' artistic rendering of the Do Seum.

Lake/Flato Architects’ artistic rendering of the Do Seum.

A crowd of 800 is expected to convene late Saturday morning as the Children’s Museum Executive Director Vanessa Lacoss Hurd and San Antonio’s First Lady Erica Castro welcome families getting their first glimpse of the future.

Children's Museum Executive Director Vanessa Lacoss Hurd in action at the museum's current facilities downtown on Houston Street. Courtesy photo.

Children’s Museum Executive Director Vanessa Lacoss Hurd in action at the museum’s current facilities downtown on Houston Street. Courtesy photo.

For three hours, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. the northern stretch of the campus will be a beehive of outdoor games and fun activities. Tattoo artists will be on hand to brand kid’s cheeks with Do Seum tattoos and other adornments – the kind that wash away with soap and water. Food trucks offering a variety of lunch and snack choices will vie for the attention of children and adults alike.

Erica Castro, both First Lady and school teacher, is serving as the Do Seum’s spokesperson, underscoring Julián Castro’s goal of being the Education Mayor, and her own commitment as an educator and role model for new generations of young Latinas who need to dream big.

The Do Seum itself is the result of some big thinking and ambitious fundraising. Hurd, who came here from Boston with her husband, a San Antonio native, aims to create a national caliber facility that will be ranked alongside the country’s other top children’s museums. The real possibility of achieving that status began with a $20 million gift from H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt. Hurd said last week that the board and her team are on track, having raised 90% of the $46 million to complete the project.

Jan. 25 event schedule for the Do Seum preview event.

Jan. 25 event schedule for the Do Seum preview event. Click to enlarge.

What will make the San Antonio Do Seum unique is its indoor-outdoor space and design. Other leading children’s museums also are located in or near the heart of major cities and occupy smaller footprints. Lake/Flato Architects has designed a campus that will move children out of buildings and into green spaces and back again, with activities, learning stations and exhibits located all along the way.

Saturday is meant to be a celebration of all that is to come: a new major cultural destination on Broadway within walking distance of Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio River, the Witte Museum, the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, and just a short ride or pedal to the McNay Art Museum to the north in Alamo Heights or south to the Pearl and the San Antonio Museum of Art.

“The Do Seum is the new name of a museum on the rise in a city on the rise,” said Steve Herlich, vice president of advancement for the Children’s Museum.

The word “museum” comes from the Greek “seat of the Muses,” and the Do Seum is a way of saying the same thing in a modern context: A place where children will find, touch and sense inspiration and learning.


Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook. 


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7 thoughts on “The New Children’s Museum: San Antonio’s Hands-On Learning Laboratory for Kids

  1. I love puns and clever wordplay. But I feel compelled to attempt to save this amazing project from a naming do-saster. I ran the new name by my kids and it didn’t really survive the focus group. (The first-grader took some extra creative license with the name, saying the ‘do’ part twice. Kids will be kids.)

    • Hold up… $3 million in bond money came from the city of San Antonio in 2012. The rest came from area foundations, companies and individual donations (Charles Butt donated $20 million on his own). I’d say the city got a FANTASTIC deal on what will become a major asset to our community.

  2. Its unfortunate that I am writing this review but it’s important that other parents understand that the birthday party facility at the Doseum is not well run and that they are not focused on customer service or customer satisfaction.

    We spent a total of $818 on our daughter’s birthday party and we were very unhappy with the result. I did not see my daughter smiling at the end of her party. She did not seem excited. And that is something I have a right to expect.

    First off my wife said the pizza had already been delivered when she arrived to set up the party. By the time the children were ready to eat, the pizza was cold. This was not the fault of the pizza company as the museum people told us they would place the order and that they would arrange for delivery. If i knew that meant the pizzas would sit out for more than an hour before being served I would have made other arrangements.

    My wife said that the people at the museum who came to help her set up had a poor attitude and did not present a happy demeanor as one might expect from people helping set up a child’s birthday party. When I spoke with the gentleman who was in charge of the party set up he did not seem familiar with the plan despite ours being the only party that day. We also paid extra for the “Spy Academy” which he was completely unaware of when I asked when it would begin. He had not read the paperwork which outlined the party plan and was not prepared for the “Spy Academy” part. This led to the children being rushed through lunch which my wife estimated to be about 10 minutes, with another 10 minutes devoted to singing the birthday song and eating cupcakes. This was done in order to rush the children through so he could complete the “Spy Academy” plan which was completed at the very last minute and without much preparation. I can only guess that if the people who helped do the set up had a poor demeanor it was because the person in charge let them know at the very last minute that there was a birthday party which required set up. As he was ill prepared for the entire event, this seems a plausible explanation.

    For the amount we were charged I expected our daughter to have a smile on her face and show some delight during her special day with all of her friends. I can accept the exorbitant amount if my daughter was happily enjoying the event. She wasn’t unhappy, but she wasn’t smiling. And that’s not good enough from a museum of this type which is well developed and professionally run. We love the museum but I can’t recommend this party facility. There so many other fantastic options for less than half the price we paid.

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