EVERETT — By spring, kids at Imagine Children’s Museum can take the helm of a tugboat, play with balance, capacity and weight on model cargo ships, and admire a mural of Everett’s seaport.
All of that is planned for a new exhibit called “Export, Import, Our Port” in the $25 million, three-floor expansion under construction on Hoyt Avenue just south of Wall Street. Crews hoisted the centerpiece 20-foot, 2-ton tugboat shell into place last week.
“What we thought was important for children was to understand some of the vessels that we all see out in the Sound here,” museum executive director Nancy Johnson said.
There’s a dichotomy between the expansion’s two floors. The first, featuring a woodland exhibit, is about wonderment of the natural world in Snohomish County. A gray whale skeleton will be displayed on the second floor. It has engineering, distribution, port and maker space galleries that examine humanity’s ability to shape the world.
Highlighting the maritime industry makes sense in a city with a seaport that processes between $21 billion and $30 billion in exports annually. One wall will have a mural of the Port of Everett’s working facilities, including cranes and some types of ships that move cargo.
“Seaports touch everything — 99% of the goods that come into the country travel by sea,” port spokesperson Cat Soper said. “It’s no doubt seaports play a critical role in everybody’s daily life.”
The Port of Everett committed $100,000 toward the expansion, specifically for the port exhibit. Images and information about careers, cargo and vessels also were shared for the museum to glean for displays.
There already are school classroom programs organized through the museum, and supporting a room dedicated to what the port does is well worth the money, Soper said.
“This is career-connected learning,” Soper said. “They are learning about something for their future.”
Once the expansion opens, the welded-steel tugboat will be an interactive and wheelchair-accessible feature. At the helm, the console lets users learn about and try their hands at navigation, speak with crew in the engine room, hear noises from working tugs and see footage from the perspective of being in a real pilothouse.
“What you see up there is a good portion of the boat, but there’s still a portion yet to be put on,” Johnson said. “We build these iconic pieces for a lifetime.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Imagine Children’s Museum saw around 230,000 visitors per year. Those numbers plummeted during the closure throughout the pandemic, with the museum cautiously reopening its doors in June.
Museum staff offered online programs and take-home kits while forging ahead with expansion and fundraising. Johnson said the museum has reached just over $17 million of a $25 million target.
“We believe we will continue to see individuals and businesses and foundations step forward because of the tremendous value this is bringing to our community,” Johnson said.
Reservations are required due to public health concerns related to COVID-19. The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays.