Museum Lab Opens for Older Kids

Now when kids outgrow the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, they can simply walk one building over to the new Museum Lab, a museum for “older kids,” opening Saturday, April 27.

The partner museum, located in the former Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, is intended for kids ages ten and up, Bill Schlageter, director of marketing for the Children’s Museum and Museum Lab, said during a tour of the building Friday.

Museum Lab is split into three spaces— studio lab, make lab and tech lab.

Studio Lab features rotating art installations and collaborative art projects. Visitors can work alongside artists in residence and watch the restoration process of old artwork.

Studio Lab’s first exhibit, Nek Chand: A Hidden World, shows the artist’s mosaic sculptures and will be on display through September.

Make Lab grew from the success of MAKESHOP in the Children’s Museum, but is designed to allows for more complex projects. Kids can learn woodworking, metalworking and fiber arts. The space includes 3D printers, laser cutters, table saws, sewing machines and computer design systems like Raspberry Pi, among many other tools and resources.  

“When we came to approach a space like this and wanted to scale it up to ten and up we wanted to have activities where kids could really make things they could use or try something they could use,” Schlageter said. “…You can see big tools. It’s not Fisher Price tools.”

Tech Lab works in partnership with the Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center. Visitors can explore coding, virtual and augmented reality and audio recording and mixing, among other tech-related projects.

John Balash, director of education engagement at the Entertainment Technology Center, showed how kids can put on a VR headset and create 3d models of molecules by reaching out right in front of them.

“The idea is just to use the technology as a supplement for learning,” Balash said. “We’re not trying to say this is a curriculum...We’re saying what can technology do that we can’t do as humans right now and what can that do to supplement education?”

That modern attitude is complimented at Museum Lab by the history of the former library itself, which has sat vacant since 2007. The architectural firm and construction team on the project restored many of the building’s original features, including sweeping archways, detailed brick and tile work, exposed steel beams with “Carnegie” printed onto them and original library furniture.

“We purposely left it in spots distressed, because it gives an opportunity to glimpse into the beautiful forms that were part of this great building,” Schlageter said.

Koning Eizenberg Architecture served as the design architect, Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff and Goettel served as the executive architect and Mascaro Construction served as the construction manager of the project. The building, originally opened in 1890, has been updated to Gold LEED certification and meets the city’s 2030 climate plan goals.

“We have a card catalog over here with nuts and bolts. You will see throughout the building some lovely pieces of furniture that were made for the libraries 75 years ago,” Schlageter said. “I just love the juxtaposition of that and electric guitars or an electric guitar you made on the 3D printer. It has all the right potential to speak to kids ten and up.”

Museum Lab features two commissioned artwork pieces. One, called Over View, is layers of detailed laser cut fabric across the ceiling of the Grable Gallery meant to mimic the pattern of the library’s original stained glass skylight.

The second, located in the three story section of the library’s old “stacks,” will be an art installation of ropes the kids can climb and swing on called Gymlacium. This section of the museum will open on June 8.

Museum Lab partnered with the Manchester Charter Middle School, which will relocate 140 students to classrooms on the museum’s second floor for the 2019-2020 school year.  

Museum Lab will be open Monday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June 15. Then summer hours— from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day– will kick in.

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