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So. What do you do when your dreams come true? - KJ Morris, Founder

About 12 years ago, an idea was coming to life, it was a big dream…but lots of folks stepped up and made the dream a reality…which was to build a vibrant, safe, flexible, affordable, all-welcoming space that would offer local kids, parents & caregivers’ an opportunity to play. create. explore. together. And for over a decade, Jackson Hole Children’s Museum has proven to be just that, and more, as at its heart JHCM has become a truly reliable resource for all kinds of Play and Learning for all kinds of Jackson Families and Visitors.

When we dreamed of the future and of a final home for JHCM, we hoped for a municipal partnership, wanted for an in-town location, wished for a subsidized lease, and imagined about 5000 sqft. to be just about right for our community, and to keep the local and affable “vibe” JHCM had become known for… And, well, after a few moves and a lot of learning as an organization, the Dream came true. In the shape of 105 Mercill Ave! A 30-year municipal partnership & lease in a building owned by Teton County, in the Town of Jackson, and just over 5000 sqft.!!

So…again, what do you do when your dreams come true?

You hire an amazing Architect, Visitor Experience & Exhibit Design Firm to help steward you through the process of creating the best most awesome final home for the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum in Jackson Wyoming!

After several months of lease negotiations with Teton County and some preliminary assistance from the 105 Mercill Partners architect on record DA Architects, the board sent out an RFP for conceptual Museum design proposals. From over a half dozen proposals, one design studio rose to the top of the list as a firm that matched well with staff and board goals, but also a clear sympatico in our shared Play (& Learning) philosophies!

G Y R O S C O P E I N C “an award-winning design studio that is passionate about creative learning environments” from the Bay Area in California began working with JHCM staff and board members immediately. And in early August, 3 key Gyroscope team members flew to Jackson for a few days of intense learning about the dreams for JH Children’s Museum final home but also the history and culture of valley itself.

Gyroscope introduced the board and staff to their unique design process and what we could expect over the next few weeks and months. Three stakeholder groups were invited to share their thoughts, expectations and hopes for the museum as well: including JHCM members and users, volunteers, previous staff, collaborative nonprofit partners & community leaders as well as the JHCM Kids Design committee. The Gyroscope team also spent time observing JHCM’s All-Girls Steam summer camp and then followed that with an in-depth discussion with the kids’ design committee who were full of thoughtful ideas for the new space.

Certain words, themes and thoughts were repeatedly expressed by stakeholder participants throughout the discussions; the recognition and the importance of our natural landscape & the wildlife we cherish, the grit and determinization of our citizens in the face of physical pursuits, but also local struggles of housing, staffing and childcare. Not surprising, but still no less heartwarming, was the clear desire to maintain the intimacy and specialness of place that JHCM was able to create in our previous locations. The power of place-based play, learning & philosophies such as STEAM, interdisciplinary learning, role play, parental play engagement - stakeholders repeated the importance of holding on to the grass roots creativity and inspiration found at JH Childrens Museum and how it has not only been embraced but also has become relied on by the community at large. And as JHCM educator Tessa voiced so well “we are the wacky art science group” and we like that!

On their way back to California, the design team got a very complete “valley tour” courtesy of Exec. director Ethan Lobdell and me. We circumvented all the corners of the community with the intent to give them the fullest picture of the landscape and the community herein. We started the tour at 105 Mercill Avenue, the fantastic future final home of JH Children’s Museum…and then we cruised through several neighborhoods, past Jackson Town Parks, the JH Rodeo Grounds, Center for the Arts, Local Schools, TC Library and down to JH Indoors, where JHCM staff has been offering programs for the past year… We parked at Emilys Pond and walked across the pathways bridge over the Snake River to see Mama Mimi and of course, they were inspired by the awesome natural beauty of the National Elk Refuge, Snow King, South Park, Snake River, R-Park, Teton Village and Grand Teton National Park. We finished with a final lunch at Dornan’s, so not too bad a day... Our valley is magic, and the Gyroscope design team clearly understood that after just a few days here.

We will now, with Gyroscopes guidance, start the real work of creating a most magical and unique expression for Jackson Hole Children’s Museum. Over the next many weeks, many more conversations will follow as we try to discern all the dreams and wishes, all the requirements and must-haves, all the maybes and maybe nots. All with the goal of creating a museum that is at home in this unique place called Jackson Hole and that represents and will serve the very special families and visitors who live, work and visit. A space that is all the things it has ever been and can now be more…given the now fact, that dreams do come true.


For more information about JH Childrens Museum, JHCM @ 105 Mercill Avenue or if you would like to participate in future design or stakeholder discussions, please contact Ethan Lobdell, JHCM Executive Director: Gyroscope, Inc. | Museum Experience Planning, Exhibit Design & Architecture

Gyroscope, Inc. is an award-winning studio of creative designers who work closely with clients to create innovative learning environments.


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