As Sara Sorenson of Bernards Township travels around the country, she has noticed something that other states have and the Garden State lacks: modern and interactive children’s museums.
While a residential neighborhood in East Orange has the Jersey Explorer Children’s Museum and an industrial park in Cherry Hill contains the Garden State Discovery Museum, Sorenson told Jersey Digs that New Jersey does not have an attraction such as the Thinkery in Austin, Texas, or Pretend City in Irvine, California. In addition, the New Jersey Children’s Museum in Paramus closed several years ago. Upon realizing that one of the country’s most populated regions does not have a new children’s museum, Sorenson and Nicole Pittaluga decided to take it upon themselves to begin the process of bringing one to Northern New Jersey.
“Children’s museums are a lot different today than they were a few years ago,” said Sorenson, who explained that many now incorporate both indoor and outdoor exhibits and are more professionally designed to include current technology.
The new museum that she and Pittaluga are hoping to bring to the Garden State would be called the dig! Children’s Museum of New Jersey and would occupy a 40,000 square foot space should plans move forward. dig! would offer a variety of “thought provoking exhibits that entertain people of all ages” that would be STEM-themed, according to Sorenson, and would include workshops, classes, and a venue for weddings and corporate events. The outdoor exhibits would be centered around a “natural playscape” with a climbing structure, gardening-related activities, and a sandbox, while the indoor ones are described as being “state-of-the art” and interactive in order to appeal to a wide variety of children.
It has not yet been decided whether the museum would occupy an existing structure or if it would involve a newly constructed building. What is known is that dig! will likely be in Morristown within walking distance of public transportation so that visitors from New Jersey and New York can come by train or bus.
This is not the first time that a new children’s museum has been proposed for the region. Several years ago, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Children’s Museum of New Jersey, which was set to be a five-story attraction near Newark Penn Station. However, backers of the project told Essex County Place that “the project went to sleep.” In addition, another children’s museum called The Exploreon was planned for Newark in 2015, but in the years since, there has been barely any mention or update regarding the proposal.
There is still a long way to go before digging begins for the dig! Museum. Partners, volunteers, board members, and donors are still being sought and a space in Morris County has not yet been selected. Yet Sorenson is hoping that unlike previous ideas, the plans that she and Pittaluga have will be realized.
“Hopefully we can bring it to fruition,” she explained. “The need [for a children’s museum] has not gone away.”