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Kingman Museum

May 6, 2017

  • 175 Limit Street
  • Battle Creek, MI 49037
  • (269) 965-5117
  • Website

How to keep the kids busy on a somewhat crappy day.  It’s hard to keep finding new things to do indoors.  Both of our kids are pretty adventurous and active.  They don’t want to be cooped up in the house with mom and dad.  They want to be out doing things….and who can blame them?

We wanted to go to lunch in Battle Creek so I started looking for things to do there.   I had always been curious about the Leila Arboretum and if there was anything for the kids to do there.  We had a little bit of a window between rain showers so an outside activity could have worked.  The Kaleidoscope Garden didn’t open for a couple more days, but I stumbled upon something else.  A museum.

The Kingman Museum is on the grounds of the Leila Arboretum with direct access off Limit Street.  You can enter through the Arboretum off Michigan Avenue and wind you’re way along the path.

There’s a large parking lot on the south side of the museum  If you park in this lot, you are spared the climb up the three flights of steps you would have to climb if coming from the Arboretum.

The Kingman Museum has a pretty interesting history which you can read about on their website.  The building was supposed to be part of a much bigger educational experience campus, but the Great Depression put a halt to that after the museum was built.  There was supposed to be buildings for the fine arts, music and lectures.  This was all the brainchild of Edward Brigham who was moved the Battle Creek Public Schools Museum to what would eventually become the Arboretum and into the building that bears the name of it’s financier Emma Kingman.  Brigham scoured the globe and a lot of his, and his son’s collections are what make up a big part of the Kingman Museum.

We pulled up to the museu a little before 2:00 on Saturday afternoon.  There were a lot of people working around the museum cleaning up the grounds, but there were no other cars in the parking lot.  I had checked to make sure the museum was open before we left, but I got doubts as we pulled in.  I told J I’d go check before we got the kids out of the car.  I walked past a Saber Tooth Tiger carved out of an Ash Tree that had succumbed to the Emerald Ash Borer  and proceeded to the front.  I pulled on the door and it opened, so I went back and got the rest of the family.

Right inside the door is a small gift shop area as well as the admission area.  The guy working pointed out it would be cheapest for us to buy the family pass for $20.  Adults are $7 and kids are $5, so we saved $4 by going the family route.  They accept credit cards as well as cash, but they use a Spot on their iPad and he was having trouble with the Wi-Fi.  Luckily J had a $20 on her so we just did that instead of making him figure out why he couldn’t connect to the Internet.

The museum is three floors packed with all sorts of exhibits.  The entry floor is actually the middle of the three floors.  When you walk in, you come face to face with large stuffed creatures including a polar bear which both of my kids loved.  The little one kept staring at it and going “rawr.”  I’m going to admit right now, I didn’t take any notes and there isn’t a lot of info online about the exhibits at the museum, so I’m not going to have a lot of details about what you’re looking at.

This area also had some pelts that the kids could pick up touch.  I kept picking up the skunk pelt and asking L what she thought it was.  She thought it was a cat.  She ran from me when I told her what it was.  It didn’t help that I told her it could still spray her and make her stink.

Along the back wall are a couple of the really cool and unique things the Kingman Museum has to offer.  In one giant display case is a saber tooth cat skeleton from the La Brea Tar Pits which is apparently very rare.

Another display case nearby which you look down in to has a Mastadon tusk as well as some bones.

L wanted to head up stairs at this point.  There’s an elevator to get between the levels, but we took the stairs.  B loves stairs and was much more excited about that than anything in the museum. He’s kind of easily entertained.  Once he found the stairs, we fought with him the rest of the afternoon to keep him away.

The second floor is home to more rare artifacts sectioned off by theme.  There’s a human anatomy area that shows kids how their body works and includes a collection of human embryos and fetuses.  L was impressed by a mannequin which had organs that could be taken out.  We did our best to explain to her what everything was and what they do for her.

There’s also a displays for a number of aquatic animal habitats including the coral reefs and the Great Lakes.  There are a number of items in the collections showing what you can find in each of the different bodies of water around the world.

The mammals also make an appearance with more taxidermy in the north end of the third floor.  This area shows what kind of animals you would find in an American forest.  B liked this area and continued to growl at the animals like he did with the polar bear on the first floor.  We had to keep pulling him out as he tried to crawl under the rail to pet the animals.

Before heading downstairs, I spotted a display dedicated to Edward Brigham.  There’s a plaque on the wall detailing his accomplishments with the museum next to a display of birds from his expeditions to Central and South America.

We took the elevator all the way down to the first floor which is rotating exhibit.  Right now, they’ve dug into their collection and set up “Great Minds: Curiousity.”  It’s a collection of oddities from their collection that don’t really fit in any place else.  Some of the displayed exhibits include samurai chain mail and a Chinese silk painting…..

….a large clam shell….

….and any number of bones and fossils from a number of different animals.

While I was walking around looking in this area, L was sitting at an arts and crafts table making herself an Earth Day headband with a volunteer who seemed really happy to see us.  She had only seen one other little boy in the two hours before we got there, so she was very excited to sit down with L and help her with some coloring.

While we were on the first floor, a woman came down and said the planetarium show was starting in five minutes.  The show is free with admission so we decided to head back up to the second floor where the planetarium is.  Neither J or I have been to a planetarium in years.  We both took school field trips to Adler Planetarium in Chicago, but that was 25-30 years ago.  I only remember going.  I don’t remember anything about it.

The Planetarium is set up with a couple of rows of black plastic chairs set up facing what would traditionally be the “front” of the theater.  They also had some foam mats for kids to lay on the floor and look up.  There were a couple of other families in the museum by this time, but we were the only ones that went in for the show.  Because our kids are pretty small, the lady giving the presentation did a Star Talk at the beginning showing us what the night sky in Battle Creek looks like right now and pointed out where the constellations are.  L thought it was cool there are “animals in the sky.”  After a brief star talk, a cartoon was played instead of the typical show.  The cartoon that was shown was Zula Patrol and it was about weather on different planets in the solar system.  L and I laid on the floor while B sort of walked around.  Every so often he would join us on the floor to watch what was going on above us.

Right outside of the Planetarium is a small space display that includes a flight jacket from Grand Rapids native Jack Lousma.

The Planetarium show was about 25 minutes then we headed back down to the first floor.  The volunteer had taken L’s craft and they sat back down at the table and finished it.  While they were doing that, B and I explored a little more.  The first floor has some pretty cool hands on areas.

The first thing we did was by far the coolest.  The Tri-Light Box Wall is a giant light bright that uses colored Gatorade bottles instead of small plastic pegs.  B loved this.  We got out a couple of bins of bottles and he figured out quickly how to put the bottles in the holes.  When L got done with her craft, she joined us as well.

Next to the light wall, is an archaeology exhibit.  They had some sand boxes with dinosaurs that we could hide and the kids could dig through to find them.

The final area of the museum has a couple more hands on things including a plasma ball.  B was a little hesitant at first but after I showed him he could touch it, he kept going back to it.  L was the same way.  She thought it was going to shock her, but once she finally did, she thought it was pretty cool.

We spent almost two hours at the Kingman Museum which surprised both of us.  It’s a small museum that’s kind of hidden in a part of Battle Creek most people don’t usually drive by.  The Kingman Museum has a lot of cool things that you won’t see anywhere else.  It’s not a really super hands on museum, but there are some things for the kids to do and I was pleasantly surprised at how inquisitive L was about a lot of things.  We have lived in Michigan and just found out the Kingman Museum even exists.  For kids that grow up in the Battle Creek area, the Kingman has always been a field trip, but it’s an interesting part of Battle Creek and it’s a museum that has it’s own story to tell.

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