Orpheum Children's Science Museum

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Champaign Orpheum Children's Museum

The Orpheum Children's Science Museum is a children's science museum located in an old Orpheum Theatre in downtown Champaign, Illinois. The Museum covers all of the entrance to the theater, and some adjoining space outside. There are plans to turn the stage and theater part into exhibits soon. The Orpheum has many exhibits, ranging from a simple machines castle to a musical instrument made of pvc tubing.

The Orpheum also offers other activities, including field trips, summer camps, 'weekend wizards', and a girls do science club. Throughout the year many classes or clubs come to the Orpheum for hands on science teaching in many different fields. The summer camps, each a week long, vary in topic from dinosaurs, physics, inventing and robots. The girls do science club offers girls a chance to tour laboratories of women who work on the U of I campus, as well as other opportunities.

The Orpheum is supported mainly by volunteer effort. The makers of the exhibits are, for the most part, unpaid, as are the people running the summer camps.

History of the building[edit]

The Orpheum Theater opened in Champaign, Illinois in 1914 on the site of a vaudeville theater built in 1904. Designed by the Architectural firm Rapp and Rapp, the Orpheum (also known as "The New Orpheum") was built to accommodate both live vaudeville performances and the projection of film. After a series of renovations and changes of ownership, the Orpheum screened its final film in 1986.

Development of the Children's Museum[edit]

The Champaign Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA) sponsored a public meeting on April 8, 1989, in response to plans to raze the theater. This meeting was held to gauge public interest in saving the Orpheum Theatre. The City of Champaign purchased the Orpheum and adjacent building as a site for a possible parking deck in January, 1990. The city allowed 45 PACA volunteers to spend Saturday, July 7, 1990, removing the aluminum facade to reveal the original look of the building and to assess any damage.

PACA hired theatre consultant Michael Hardy to do a feasibility study of the Orpheum. He suggested, in July 1990, a children's museum as a possible use for the building. The city did not have a children's museum and there were already several successful performing arts facilities in the area.

The City of Champaign razed the adjacent warehouse building in February 1991. In the fall of 1991, the theatre facade was cleaned and painted and the marquee given cosmetic repairs by PACA. The trompe l'oeil cornice reminiscent of the original was painted above the theatre entrance.

The Discovery Place, Inc. held its first board meeting on February 5, 1992. The first Discovery Place fundraising/publicity event - A Kids Building Fair - was held on June 20, 1992, in the parking lot in front of the children's museum.

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Coordinates: 40°07′10″N 88°14′34″W / 40.1195°N 88.2427°W / 40.1195; -88.2427