The Children’s Museum of the Shoals in Florence, Lauderdale County, aims to improve early-childhood education and creativity and help children use their imagination to learn problem-solving skills. The nonprofit museum focuses on the Tennessee Valley culture, art, history, science, and other topics as part of its programming.
The museum opened in 2000, featuring exhibits and interactive activities for children of all ages that were mentally stimulating and fun. Originally, the museum included areas where visitors could participate in archaeological digs, arts and crafts, and nature walks. A replica of the Tennessee River was used to teach children about the importance of the river for both transportation and electricity generation. Another popular exhibit was the kitchen area and a grocery store.
In 2015, the museum closed for renovations and reopened in the summer of 2017. In addition to structural updates, the museum added 17 new exhibits, retaining three of the original exhibits: the river feature, kitchen area, and grocery store. One new addition is a recreation of local restaurant TrowBridge’s Ice Cream and Sandwich Bar. The second floor of the museum has become a place where children can connect with their community; there is a silent auction event that auctions off art that was created locally. The museum also has interactive musical activities that are significant to the city and also showcases various musical instruments from across the globe, which visitors are allowed to play.
While closed, the museum was able to overcome its struggles with funding and debt. A new board of directors was convened that assisted in finding corporate sponsors for exhibits. Twenty local women formed the Museum Guild and went out into the community to find one-year sponsorships for between $1,000 and $5,000 to fund the new exhibits. With the help of these funding sources, the museum was able to reopen. The city assists with grounds keeping and the city council also donated $10,000 to the museum, which uses the funds for exhibit maintenance. The Shoals Master Gardeners organization has embraced the Children’s Museum of the Shoals for the next several years, sponsoring exhibits as well.
The museum has hosted events in the past, including Sewing Saturday and Water Day. The “On the Banks of the Seine” art workshop taught children ages 4-6 with special needs about Impressionism and the French artist Georges Seurat. The museum also has Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) camp, that engages age-based groups of children in various activities. In addition, the museum is available to hosts children’s parties. The museum is located on Darby Drive in Deibert Park and has a gift shop.