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Whatcom Museum Society to Purchase Children's Museum Building

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Annette Bagley
Whatcom Museum
Phone: 360.676.6981 ext. 320

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- With the assistance of four generous donors, the Whatcom Museum Society has arranged to purchase the building currently housing the Whatcom Children's Museum at 227 Prospect St. in Bellingham. The purchase will allow funds previously expended on lease payments to be invested in more extensive programs and exhibits for the community's youth.

Jean Koppe, current owner of the property, will contribute $50,000 toward the purchase price of $200,000. The remaining funds have been generated through a grant of $80,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a pledge of $20,000 from the Rotary Club of Bellingham and an anonymous gift of $50,000.

"This purchase will have a big impact on Bellingham's children," said Dunham Gooding, president of the board of directors of the Whatcom Museum Society. "The bottom line is that the generous contributions that have made the purchase possible will result directly in rich learning experiences for many more children than we could otherwise have served."

"The Children's Museum plays a key role in accomplishing part of the Whatcom Museum's broad mission of service to the community, and the purchase of the building is another significant milestone in the museum's history," Gooding explained. "The purchase secures continuity for the Whatcom Children's Museum in Bellingham's core."

The Whatcom Children's Museum has occupied its current building with a 10-year lease agreement since 1989. The building previously housed the Allied Transmission shop and was owned by Koppe's father, George S. Graham. Koppe inherited the building in 1994. The Whatcom Museum Society raised funds to renovate the building in 1995. At the expiration of the lease in 1999, Koppe offered the Whatcom Museum Society the opportunity to buy the building. Negotiations and fund-raising efforts have taken six months.
The Whatcom Children's Museum offers regular programming and interactive exhibits for toddlers through second graders. The museum's current exhibit, Dragons: The Wonder of Mythical Beasts, celebrates the legend of dragons through history, art, literature and science. Children of all ages are encouraged to step into the past as they enter a giant medieval castle replete with thrones, costumes and parapets. Surrounding activities include puppet stages, puzzles, books, activity tables and playhouses.

Attendance at the Whatcom Children's Museum reached an all time high in 1999 with 31,660 patrons recorded for the year, representing a 24 percent increase over 1998.

Hours for the Children's Museum are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The museum is closed on Mondays. Regular admission is $2. For more information about exhibits and programs please call (360) 733-8769.

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