Port Discovery Seeks Upgrades

By Morgan Barber and Pamela Stewart

The 16-year-old children's museum is asking voters to fund upgrades

The 16-year-old children’s museum is asking voters to fund upgrades

Port Discovery Children’s Museum is asking voters to approve a $200,000 bond issue on Tuesday to raise money for building improvements.

The money will allow the museum to modernize its 108-year-old building. Port Discovery occupies the city-owned Fish Market building, the only remaining building in Baltimore’s old Centre Market District.

“We are committed to maintaining our historic, 108-year-old home,” said Ashley Barnett, public relations and promotions specialist for Port Discovery. But there are some critical upgrades that need to happen, she said, citing internal capital projects such as replacing the electrical system and interior lighting. The museum is also planning to add a new Baltimore Port-themed permanent exhibit “that will underscore the importance of the Port of Baltimore in the historic growth of the city and to the economic success of the State of Maryland.”

During renovations, Port Discovery will continue to work closely with the Maryland Historic Trust and professional engineering firms to make improvements without altering the historic nature of the building.

Port Discovery has received city funding in five of the last 10 years, for a total of $1.6 million. Although it gets less than other local organizations like the National Children’s Museum, the National Aquarium, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Maryland Science Center, the Maryland Zoo and the Walters Art Museum, the institution is still ranked one of the top 12 museums in the area.

Port Discovery’s operating budget for 2014 was $3.9 million, with only $199,170 (4.9 percent) consisting of public funding. “Funding received from the city represents only a portion of the funds we must raise to complete all of our critical projects,” says Barnett. “City funding, however, is pivotal in helping reach the goals required to serve residents and visitors as one of the top ranked children’s museums in the country and a significant non-traditional educational resource for children, parents, and teachers.”

Barnett says the $200,000 helps the museum “fulfill its non-profit mission to promote the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual well-being of all children, regardless of economic or social situation.”

Toward this end, the Museum subsidizing or waives admission for low-income students and families. Of 265,000 annual visitors, 38 percent receive free or reduced admissions, including 35,000 students on field trips.

First opening in a fish market building in 1998, Port Discovery Children’s Museum celebrated its 16th birthday in 2014. Having exhibits from the BGE Studio Workshop to the Wonders of Wow, this museum helps children to not only learn by watching, but to also learn by doing. This museum caters to children of all ages, even under three-years-old.

Over the past 16 years, Port Discovery has had over four million visitors—most of them children.

“I ask my mother [to] take me to there [Port Discovery] all the time,” said Brandon Horton, a 6 year old who visits Port Discovery with his family often. “It’s so fun, you can climb on stuff, run in there and I like doing what I want and not getting in trouble for it.”

A museum staffer does a science experiment with children

A museum staffer does a science experiment with children