Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

As Marbles celebrates five years, leader looks to the future

Posted September 27, 2012
Updated September 29, 2012

Marbles Kids Museum marked five years in Raleigh with a celebration Saturday. (Courtesy: Marbles)

It's fair to say that Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh is playing a big role in the childhoods of both my kids.

There have been birthday parties and mom-and-daughter movie afternoons, countless rainy days "shopping" in the store in Around Town and hours spent gathering the plastic balls in Moneypalooza or playing hockey in Power 2 Play. My kids, ages 7 and 3, literally jump and down with excitement when I tell them that's where we're headed.

And my kids aren't the only ones who are growing up at Marbles. In the past five years, more than 2.5 million visitors have walked through the door, making it one of the most popular family destinations in North Carolina.

Marbles turns five years old on Saturday and is planning a full day of fun activities from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Museum admission (normally $5) is free. And tickets to all movies at its IMAX theater are just $5. The fun will spill out onto Hargett Street, which will be closed to the public for the festivities. Among the fun planned: A giant pile of presents that kids can knock down with a "wrecking ball," custom cake catapults, Happy Birthday sing-a-longs and much more.

I took the opportunity to check in with Marbles President Sally Edwards, who has led the children's museum from the very beginning. While it's been a big five years for the museum, leaders are not slowing down. As Edwards alludes to below, there will be some huge news for Marbles next week (can't wait to get and share all the details!) and more to come.

Go Ask Mom: Is Marbles where you thought it would be five years ago?

Edwards: Marbles has far exceeded our early expectations. Five years ago, we were so busy building exhibits to open the doors on time that we didn’t have time to really predict how the community would respond – we had to take giant leaps of faith. Fortunately, the response has been overwhelmingly positive; largely due to the fact that we’ve worked in tandem with the community from the beginning, with a true desire to make Marbles the entire community’s museum. We believe that’s been the formula for our success. Constant feedback, input and evaluation from members, teachers, visitors – and especially from kids – keeps us moving forward in the right direction.

GAM: What's the biggest surprise in the last five years?

Edwards: Wow – so many surprises, but I’d still have to say that the biggest was when 10,000 people showed up on opening day. We’ve never looked back!

GAM: Is there anything that hasn't worked?

Edwards: We’ve tried a few times to create quiet nooks in the museum for reading or storytelling, only to discover that what children and families love most about Marbles is the energy and excitement of engaging, active play.

GAM: Do you have a favorite part of the museum?

Edwards: Each exhibit is unique and I truly love them all. However, because we have so much fun and get so immersed when creating new exhibits, it seems like my favorite is always the most recent! So right now it’s Toddlers Hollow, our new developmental play area for children under three. The beautiful woodland mural has come to life with rich and creative play experiences. From the day Toddlers Hollow opened in July, we’ve witnessed the wonder of discovery and seen the magic of children reaching developmental milestones.

(Editor's Note: The new Toddlers Hollow is, indeed, a really great addition to the museum. I featured it the other week).

GAM: What does the future hold for Marbles?

Edwards: Next week, we are announcing a major new exhibit that will add some much-needed capacity and bring a bit of excitement to our exterior too. We’ve become known for regularly introducing fresh, innovative programs and new exhibits; and we don’t plan on slowing down! If anything, we’re picking up the pace of change in the next 18 months. Lots of exciting projects with great community partners are in the works. Looking ahead a little further, we’re working hand-in-hand with our lead partner and landlord, Wake County, to create a master plan for future expansion to better serve the ever-growing number of children and families coming to Marbles to play.

I'll have much more about the big news next week. Happy Birthday Marbles!


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  • FromClayton Oct 1, 2012

    I love marbles. I think it is a wonderful place. We had some low immunity problems for the first 2 years of life and noticed both times we went, little man was sick with a cold in 2 days so we had to stop going. We are doing much better so I'm thinking about venturing back. In our case, it is a problem on our end and I do not hold the museum responsible for it. Just a shame. I did notice toy bins to put "tasted toys" for cleaning and teenagers roaming around cleaning things because I was specifically looking for if/how they cleaned. My son loved it so much and we have the most wonderful pictures. I'm going to give it one more shot and see what happens now that we have a little bit of an immune system built up. Wish us luck! (i'll be the mom with the gallon size squirt pump of hand sanatizer and the santizing wipes)

  • say it isnt so Sep 29, 2012

    "They do not clean that place at all." -Enough is Enough

    What a RIDICULOUS, unfounded statement. I have noticed, on my MANY trips to Marbles over the years, just what the staff has put in place to make sure things are clean and tended to. In most of the galleries, for example, there are bins to place the 'tasted toys' so that they are taken out of circulation and can be cleaned. I've seen spills or 'accidents' tended to in a very quick manner, using sanitizers when appropriate, once staff is aware of the situation.

    Marbles is a gem, as far as I'm concerned!! I see how crowded it is on the weekends, clearly I'm not alone in my opinion. If things are looking used or worn, its because they're well LOVED!!! I love that they also keep doing little (and big) things to update the galleries, so that its not always the same ole thing.

    Happy Birthday, Marbles!!! I look forward to bringing my family and friends for years to come!!!

  • Fun Sep 29, 2012

    Curious who funds the "Art Commission?" In reality "non-profit" does not mean they shouldn't or don't make money or pay for themselves. It means they pay everything out in expenses and salaries, as opposed to shareholder,dividends,retained earning- I know there was a big to do about Marbles not too many years ago and it was "bailed out" with taxpayer money- Thanks!

  • annfolly Sep 29, 2012

    Marbles is a non-profit. They only received $750,000 from Wake County last year and nothing from the City of Raleigh except a grant from the Arts Commission to have a special art program with local artists.

  • PeaceRH Sep 29, 2012

    Fun -
    I thought Marbles was a nonprofit. They post their job openings on the NC Nonprofit's website.

  • triciajo2000 Sep 29, 2012

    I have never noticed Marbles being unsanitary. Even on days when it is very crowded and busy it seems to be cleaned much better then some children's areas I have been to. I have wondered about when they sanitize the equipment and how often? I do see a lot of children with items in their mouths and then pass it on to another child. Regardless...we love Marbles and will continue to go there as long as our kids are having fun!

  • justuptonogood Sep 29, 2012

    Wasn't it Exploris 7 years previuosly?

  • Fun Sep 29, 2012

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't Marbles get a $20 million dollars in tax money a year from the City of Raleigh as a subsidy to keep the doors open???

  • Enough is Enough People Sep 29, 2012

    Our family has been members for the past three years and I agree with shareisa. They do not clean that place at all. Its getting to the point where it's disgusting. That and they need to change the place up a bit. It's just the same things over and over. If they don't make changes soon I will not be renewing our membership.

  • PeaceRH Sep 29, 2012

    We love Marbles... Happy Birthday!