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Many children’s museums around the world have mascots that represent their museum’s mission, history, and sense of fun. We talked to eleven ACM members about what their mascots mean to them.
When Buell Children’s Museum was first founded, the name of the museum was P.A.W.S., for Pueblo Art Works. The dog theme originated from the idea of paws. Sparky the Art Dog has a black spot in the shape of a heart, and he loves reading and birthday parties!
Moe Monster was imagined by the Children’s Museum of Houston in 2013 with the idea of a quirky character who embodied childlike qualities—fierce and free spirited; unique but relatable; and with a willingness to take on the world head on! Moe Monster first made an appearance as an animated character during the Children’s Museum of Houston “Summer of Epic Adventure” commercial in 2013.
Mary is short for “mariposa”—Spanish for “butterfly.” Inspired by Mary, the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County uses the lifecycle of a butterfly woven throughout the exhibits in their outdoor space, Mary’s Garden. The museum has evolved from a small, volunteer-only mobile museum to a medium size children’s museum—and Mary’s lifecycle supports their evolution as they continue to grow. Every year, the museum sets up a small voting booth and holds elections for President of Mary’s Garden. This encourages children and families to engage in their communities, stay informed, and (most importantly) learn the process of voting and how important it is.
The name is a combination of two words: Kid and Doodle. Kidoodle was designed to be inclusive with the hope that everyone could see themselves in Kidoodle, and to showcase the museum’s playful, creative, and fun spirit. The colors of the museum’s logo and the Kidoodle shape were chosen with the help of children who identified green, purple, and pink as their favorite crayons to draw with. Kidoodle was introduced at the museum’s groundbreaking in October 2008, and has been serving as the museum’s ambassador ever since! Right now, a plush Kidoodle is traveling Germany with one of the museum’s play guides who is studying there (@prairieplaysd).
Gnarkles was created by Ben Brown for the museum in 2009. Gnarkles isn’t one specific thing, and can be interpreted to be something different based on the perspective you have! His name was chosen from a local contest. Gnarkles is completely created from kitchen pots, pans, and utensils!
Geo is made up of colorful 3-D shapes forming a person. He represents a playful spirit, based in an educational foundation. Geo stands outside the museum in statue on top of a podium scaling around ten feet tall! He also is in the museum’s logo and represents the museum’s brand to their community.
The museum didn’t choose Bessie—Bessie chose the museum! Visitors like to climb, sit on, paint, wash, and hug Bessie. She stands at the front of the museum’s property, and children love to look for her as they pass by in their parents’ care to see what hat she is wearing that day!
Before Discovery Place Kids opened in Huntersville, the museum worked to develop Can Can as a physical representation of the spirit of their efforts to create a children’s museum. Can Can was developed as someone children could identify with. To this day, the mascot represents the personality of Discovery Place Kids, now in two locations. Both Discovery Place Kids museums have an overall focus of encouraging children to believe in themselves, evidenced in the exhibitions all being named “I CAN …,” which is how Can Can was named!
The Wooly Mammoth is the Alaskan State Fossil. The museum has an enormous chicken wire Wooly Mammoth sculpture, made by local artist Lacie Stewing, that visitors are encouraged to tie yarn to as a collaborative art project!
The mascot was born as part of Please Touch Museum’s rebrand in May 2018 and was unveiled in October 2018 through a PTM Birthday Bash. Squiggles’ name was chosen in a citywide naming contest with more than 1,400 creative entries. As part of the museum’s commitment to inclusivity, Squiggles is gender non-binary and referred to using the pronouns they, their, and them.
Wilbur is based on the sun in the museum’s logo. He was created to serve as the mascot for their grocery store in the Farm to Market exhibit. The museum wanted a fun and whimsical mascot who would make people smile just looking at it. Another goal was to replicate a mascot kids might see in a real grocery store, adding a level of reality to the imaginary play happening in the exhibit. In April 2019, the museum is continuing their 30th anniversary celebration with a campaign called “Where’s Wilbur?” Wilbur will hide in the museum every day, and children who find him will get their photo with Wilbur on our photo wall.
Thanks to Buell Children’s Museum, Children’s Museum of Houston, Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, Children’s Museum of South Dakota, Children’s Museum of Tacoma, The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, Discovery Museum, Discovery Place, Fairbanks Children’s Museum, Please Touch Museum, and Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City for sharing their stories!
The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) champions children’s museums worldwide. Follow ACM on Twitter and Facebook.