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CHILDREN'S MUSEUMS MERGE, HONOR INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE

Hard-working waterfront grain scoopers may be a vanishing breed in Buffalo, but they won't be forgotten.

Children's museum promoters in Buffalo want to create a little city within the city that will include homage to the grain scoopers.

It's part of a new collaboration between supporters of Mudpies Children's Museum in downtown Buffalo and what would have been the Children's Museum of Buffalo. With the merger of the two organizations, the combined effort will be called Mudpies Children's Museum of Buffalo.

"Everyone working together was the right thing to do," said Bonny K. Ryder, Mudpies executive director, who continues to educate kids through her traveling "Museum Without Walls."

In agreement is Craig Kosinski, museum specialist at Hadley Exhibits.

"We decided to look at what we had in common, for the betterment of the community," explained Kosinski, who will take his Children's Museum plans to Mudpies.

Part of the little city -- called Curios"city" at Mudpies -- will highlight the industrial heritage of Buffalo. An interactive exhibit will represent a grain elevator, where, like the grain scoopers, kids can scoop "play grain" onto a conveyor and turn the crank of the conveyor to transport the "grain" into a silo. Curios"city" -- The Little City of Good Neighbors will be on the third floor of Mudpies' new building at 173 Elm St., currently under renovation.

"Children learn better through play," explained Kosinski, who was president of the Children's Museum of Buffalo. "Play is simulation, make-believe and pretend. It's figuring things out, problem-solving.

"Play is a trial run for real life. Children watch things, experiment and, at some point, deal with the real world. But mostly they play and simulate. They are on a guided tour taking it all in."

And soon kids will be able to "take it all in" on a tour of Curios"city" representing Buffalo.

Other Curios"city" features may include: an art and invention studio and workshop, a residential area, market, hospital, police station, bank, broadcasting facility, construction site, a theater and performance space and a library/resource center.

"Envision an active, bustling community of children interacting with each other on the streets of their city," Kosinski proposed. A play city will incorporate tiered platforms, passageways and ladders to form a maze on the more formal grid of the streets.

"We realize that a children's museum can't exist in a vacuum, and needs support from the whole community," Kosinski said. "The museum is a community resource, providing a space that's a laboratory for creativity in expression and in problem-solving for children." Curios"city" will provide "space for imaginative make-believe."

With not-for-profit Mudpies now at 185 Elm St., Ryder, a retired Buffalo teacher, expects the 17,000-square-foot building at 173 Elm to be finished within the next year, with several hands-on exhibits. Exhibits will also include the interactive "Home Free," on Western New York's connections to the Underground Railroad, to serve as a national model among children's museums.

Besides Kosinski, Timothy J. Walsh, former Children's Museum of Buffalo director, has also joined Mudpies board of trustees.

"We are extremely excited to be joining forces with the Children's Museum of Buffalo," said Robert B. Cohen, Mudpies president. "This union will strengthen our team and add to our expertise and passion to build a first-rate children's museum in Buffalo."

e-mail: lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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