Hilary Parker | 01/12/2015 | Insider Blogs |   

Sharing art, science and history with kids at the Whatcom Museum

Family Interactive Gallery, Whatcom Museum

I begin this post with a little reminiscing:

When I was a child, my family and I would frequently make the trek up I-5 from our home south of Seattle to visit my grandmother in Bellingham. On occasion, we would visit the Whatcom Museum, then housed solely in the old City Hall building on Prospect Street.

I loved the architecture of the old building, the carved-wood grand staircase leading to the second floor rotunda, and, most especially, the standing exhibits on the third floor.

These exhibits included displays from the city’s logging days, a diorama of taxidermied birds and, my favorite, a display of dolls and children’s toys from days gone by.

I fondly remember my time at the Whatcom Museum, and love having the opportunity to share the museum with my own children. Today, the museum has grown to a complex of three buildings.

Syre Education Center

Syre Education Center is home to permanent exhibits and classroom space, and is typically only open for special groups. It is also home to the Whatcom Museum’s extensive photo archives.

Remember the bird exhibit I loved as a kid? Many of those birds, and more, are part of the Syre Center’s permanent exhibit, which was another reason I wanted to visit. It’s kind of like visiting old friends. As it turns out, the kids were just as fascinated with the birds as I was as a child.

The Syre Center is small, so it won’t take much time to explore the birds, along with the exhibits of Native American artifacts and Victorian-era living. But be sure to take your time and explore the “bird treasure hunt” and try on the Native masks.

Old City Hall

Next, we moved on to Old City Hall to check out an exhibit of Darius Kinsey, known for his photographs of old growth forests and logging, dating back to the 1890s. My son was fascinated to see logging images from around Bellingham that he could recognize, such as the remnants of old train trestles from the Blodel Donovan logging operation.

Histortical photo at Old City Hall, Whatcom Museum

My son had an even bigger surprise as we walked through an exhibit of Bellingham and Whatcom County photos from Bellingham Herald photographer Jack Carver. There, he saw a photograph of his great grandfather and namesake participating in Memorial Day services.

It’s these kinds of connections to our community’s history and our family history that make the Whatcom Museum so special to me. As a parent, it’s a real joy to see my children light up when they make the connection.

Lightcatcher Building and Family Interactive Gallery

Our final stop on the museum tour was to the Lightcatcher to visit the Family Interactive Gallery, fondly known as the FIG. The kids, of course, love this part of the museum best. Even my oldest and her friend, at age 10, still love to play and explore the interactive exhibits here.

Who wouldn’t? Kids and families can try their hand at making a stop action film, build with materials large and small, dance, farm and camp. An art room allows kids to create their own masterpiece, and there’s even a special space for crawlers and toddlers to safely play.

The FIG offers programming for kids, including multiple Toddler Art sessions, art and building opportunities for older children and special family activity days. It’s also an ideal spot for hosting a birthday party.

Among the three buildings that make up the Whatcom Museum, there are many great opportunities for your kids to connect with art, science and history.

The details: Admission gives you entry to all three of the museum buildings. General admission is $10, children 2-5 pay $4.50 and children under 2 are free. Admission on Thursdays is just $5.


OLD CITY HALL: 121 Prospect Street Hours: Thursday - Sunday, Noon - 5 p.m.

LIGHTCATCHER: 250 Flora Street Hours: Wednesday - Sunday Noon - 5 p.m. Thursdays open until 8 p.m. Saturday open at 10 a.m. FIG Hours:  Wednesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday 12 - 5 p.m.

SYRE EDUCATION CENTER: 201 Prospect Street Hours: Thursday – Sunday, Jan. 8 – Feb. 5 Noon – 5 p.m. Archive Hours: Wednesday - Friday, 1-5 p.m.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
Visitor Center Located at I-5 Exit 253 - Check Hours
904 Potter Street, Bellingham, WA 98229
Phone: 360-671-3990

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