October 16, 2021 Karen Lewis

Children’s Museum Pop-Up Attracts Visitors in Seward

The Happy Youth Programs & Educational Resources (HYPER) Children’s Museum Pop-Up made its debut this past August. Sponsored by the Seward Prevention Coalition and a KMTA annual grant, the pop-up museum named “Gateway to Alaska” was a 1900s Seward themed display. Featured was a mercantile based on the original Brown and Hawkins, a train depot built as a façade replica of the 1917 depot, a coal mining tunnel, a prospectors camp out area and an outdoor gold panning station. The visitors who attended played hands on with miniature replicas of buildings that have historical significance. Adults that were visiting without children enjoyed the informational signage and photos.

Many photos on display were donated by the Seward Library and Resurrection Bay Historical Society. Informational signage displayed these photos and facts about the founding fathers: the Ballaine Brothers, Brown & Hawkins Mercantile empire, Gold Panning How-To, and train cut-outs that walked visitors through the history of the railroad. Parents were able to read the signs and share with their young children about what Seward was like over 100 years ago.

 Chugachmuit whose vision for heritage preservation is to revitalize the traditional Chugach Native culture and language, partnered with HYPER to provide materials for the interactive museum. These additions enhanced the visitors’ experience tremendously and included a sensory fur table, a bead trading station, and a water table that showcased little kayaks that could be floated around scenery representing the region. 

The museum is not a permanent installation and is looking for its forever home.  In the meantime, they are looking for ways to display it as a pop-up.  Some interest has been generated by local teachers who can use the exhibit in a playful way to educate children of Seward’s past; the Founding Fathers: the Ballaine Brothers, railroad history, gold prospectors, coal mining/process and how it all lies within the KMTA corridor.  The Seward Community Library Association has also reached out to ask if a partial set up of the exhibits is possible.