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University of Alaska to aid Fairbanks Children’s Museum

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Posted: Friday, September 20, 2013 12:00 am

FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks Children’s Museum will receive two helping hands from the University of Alaska system in coming weeks.

For starters, the museum, which has been operating as a series of mobile events since its creation two years ago, soon will have a temporary home at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North.

On top of that, the children’s museum will receive a $25,000 donation from the University of Alaska College Savings Plan to fund a part of its offerings for four years.

The Museum of the North offered its auditorium to the children’s museum to use throughout the winter. The auditorium, which is actively used throughout the summer, is largely dormant in winter, executive director Brenda Riley said.

The children’s museum will open in the 2,000-square-foot auditorium as a “mini-museum” Oct. 1 and will have a sort of grand opening celebration Oct. 5.

The mini-museum will operate in the Museum of the North through April, when the auditorium will re-open for the summer.

Prior to receiving permission to use the auditorium the children’s museum had been operating events called “museums without walls,” where it would bring portable exhibits to venues around the Fairbanks area. The mini-museum will be the closest the group has come to a real home since registering as a nonprofit in 2011.

“Having museums without walls running for two years was like phase one,” Riley said. “The mini-museum is like phase two.”

The donation from the College Savings Plan is the largest received to date by the Fairbanks museum, Riley said.

“They are our first big donor,” she said. “Our donor category for that amount is ‘Herculean Mammoth of Epic Proportions.’”

The museum, whose mascot is Wooly the Mammoth, bases each of its donor tiers on the animal — from Friendly mammoth (up to $149) to the Herculean category ($25,000 and up). The names are purposefully playful.

The donation will go to fund a special exhibit bearing the College Savings Plan’s name in the Children’s Museum’s temporary home and will eventually move with the museum when it finds a permanent home.

Lael Oldmixon, the College Savings Plan’s executive director, said the partnership with Children’s Museum was a natural fit.

“One of the better ways for us to help people learn about saving is to provide outreach and intentional support of programs that align with our mission,” Oldmixon said. “When kids start thinking about college, they inevitably start thinking about, ‘Well, is that possible for me and how can we make that possible.’”

The University of Alaska College Savings Plan was established under the education trust of Alaska by the Legislature. While part of the university system, the savings plan is entirely funded by program fees.

The children’s museum is still looking for a permanent home, as well as funding to cover the cost of such an expense.

Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.

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