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Glancer Magazine

NAPERVILLE | DuPage Children's Museum Wonder Room Receives Innovation Award

Illinois Association of Museums Celebrates Innovation at DuPage Children’s Museum

NAPERVILLE–The sensory-friendly Wonder Room at DuPage Children’s Museum (DCM) received a prestigious Innovation Award from the Illinois Association of Museums (IAM). Annually, IAM hosts a peer reviewed and highly competitive award competition. This is the first year IAM featured an innovation category, celebrating museums who have ventured out of their customary practices to try something new in the last year, and DCM earned top honors.


As an independent museum network, IAM supports the work of the American Alliance of Museums, and various local and regional museum networks across Illinois. IAM seeks to collaborate with all museum professional groups to promote best practices around the state. With this recognition, DCM is synonymous with best practice in the museum field, this time for Innovation.


The challenge in designing the space was how best to create a calming experience in the bustling museum environment that would provide guests an opportunity to slow down and regroup yet remain engaged in active wonder. Through creativity, experimentation, and strategic partnerships, the immersive concept for the Wonder Room brought together the best of DCM’s in-house exhibit team as well as partnering artists. 


The resulting exhibit is a multi-sensory experience which incorporates tactile panels linked to sensors that trigger a variety of life-size nature images projected onto the room’s curved wall. Creating an interactive projection that encouraged “slow” engagement was challenging, but the team was motivated by the potential to have the Wonder Room live up to its name while also being a place of peace and reflection. 


The tactile panels were themed to match the projections. The clouds and sunlight, the earth with its trees and rocks, and the sunset shimmering over a lake could be seen and felt, creating the unique potential for children to work together to create their own landscapes. Original musical composition to correlate with the tactile panels and imagery was also developed. For instance, when guests interact with the night sky sensory panel they start to hear a piano expressing a dreamy melody. The sound design not only brought another calming sensory input, but also allowed guests with low/no vision to interactively feel and hear the art.  


“We work hard every day to create a dynamic play environment where children and families feel welcome, safe, and inspired! Our exhibits aim to build creative problem-solving skills in children, as we know that the solutions the world needs are nestled in their young minds,” explained Kimberly Stull, DCM Chief of Building and Making. “The work we did creating the Wonder Room emulates this grand notion of education and embodies our mission. We truly came together to push the boundaries of our skill sets to create an environment that is unique and exciting, but primarily, exactly what our guests needed – a calming space.” 


DCM’s dedication to playful learning demands creativity and innovation, and the team is committed to take what they know and can do into all kinds of directions to inspire museum guests – and museum peers. 


The Wonder Room is supported by the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation and a grant from City of Naperville Special Events and Community Arts (SECA) Fund.



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