In 1978, with approval from the City of Ann Arbor, Cynthia Yao and a group of devoted volunteers began converting the old brick firehouse into an interactive, hands-on museum for children of all ages. The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum opened in 1982 with 25 exhibits on 2 floors, 2 staff person and 10 volunteers.
During the Museum’s first year of operation, it welcomed 25,000 guests. The visitors’ interest and enthusiasm propelled the Museum to accelerate expansion plans. Four years later the museum opened the third and fourth floors of the firehouse with the help of a Kresge Foundation Challenge Grant. In 1993, the Museum purchased several adjoining buildings and began a $6.5 million Capital Campaign to fund building and program expansions. Five separate grants, received over several years, from the National Science Foundation totaling $1.7 million, funded the creation of new exhibits and the expanded facility. Through many generous gifts the Museum completed its renovations and introduced its latest facility in October 1999.
The Museum was founded by a group of dedicated volunteers and continues to thrive because of their endless energy and support. Over 100 volunteers donate their time directing visitors, answering questions, building and restoring exhibits and conducting intriguing experiments on the Museum floor for our guests.
Visitors can enjoy more than 250 interactive exhibits, each with a different focus to bring physics, geology, math, music and more to life. Figure out How Things Work from generating tornados to pumping water with an Archimedes screw. Kids four and under can explore water and play in a mini fire engine in the Preschool Gallery. Stop in and see the full size interactive Huron Valley Ambulance in the All About You gallery and don’t miss a spectacular immersive representation of Michigan in fall in the Michigan Nature room. Lights and Optics invites you to strum a string-less harp. Recollections pulls you in and makes you the exhibit on an interactive video screen. MediaWorks lets kids see themselves as news anchors in a working CTN television studio.