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Gilbert House Children's Museum in Salem reopening to the public with safety in mind

The museum is gradually reopening after news of the Portland Children's Museum's permanent closure. Limited capacity and timed ticketing are some of the precautions.

SALEM, Ore. — At Gilbert House Children's Museum in Salem, news of the Portland Children's Museum permanently closing hit hard. 

"We're a really tight-knit community within the children's museum world," said Gilbert House Children's Museum Executive Director Alicia Bay. "I'm definitely heartbroken with the rest of our colleagues of the closing of Portland Children's Museum...we know how important they are in the lives of children."

Bay is thankful Gilbert House is able to reopen again following a year-long closure. There are many safety changes to make it possible.

"We're limiting the number of people that can be here at the same time. In our next phase that will be up to 40 people for two-hour time slots, and then in between those, we'll have a half-hour break where everything will be cleaned and sanitized throughout the museum," said Bay.

The first phase keeps things outdoors. "Recess" began this week, with rotating play groups from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Kids have access to the 20,000-square-foot outdoor play area. The newest exhibit is the "Bubble Factory," planned before the pandemic, it fits the times. A hand-on experience for kids with plenty of soap and water.

Indoor exhibits at Gilbert house Children's Museum will begin reopening on April 9. Tickets are available for purchase on the museum's website. You'll need to book a day and time in advance.

"They've got a great process for letting families come and still distance comfortably and safely. It's been really excited to get them up here," said Patrick, visiting with his two kids. His family has been cautious over the past year, but he's pleased with the precautions.

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

"We definitely feel comfortable being able to come over here," he said. "It's still a limited number, everybody's distanced... They do a great job of spacing it out for families."

"During the whole closure we tried to focus on how we could still accomplish mission, which is to inspire children to learn through creative play," Bay added, happy to see kids at play again.

Everyone can have their own bubble with lots of space. Bay says Gilbert House is ready to welcome you back, whenever you're ready.

"This place exists to be here for children," she said. "To have children playing and socializing and experiencing those things with the grown-ups in their lives and with other children. We're so excited to be welcoming people back to the museum."

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