Places that Matter

Brooklyn Children's Museum

click on image for slideshow
Michelle Pena
Michelle Pena
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Michelle Pena
Michelle Pena
The first museum in the world created specifically for children
Place Details »

Place Matters Profile

In 1999 the Brooklyn Children's Museum (BCM) celebrated its centennial. One hundred years earlier it opened as the first museum in the world designed specifically for children. Internationally, its creation spurred development of children's museums around the world. At a local level, it has always played a central role in the Crown Heights neighborhood, which has long valued the resources offered by the museum and the importance of having a world-class institution in its midst.

The Brooklyn Children's Museum was originally housed in two 19th century mansions, an Italianate villa built for the L.C. Smith family and the William Newton Adams residence. Once part of an elaborate complex of grand homes and gardens known as Bedford Park, these properties were eventually sold to the city, which in turn offered them to the Brooklyn Institute of Arts of Sciences to create the world's first children's museum. Anna Billings Gallup, a botanist and zoologist, was BCM's first curator-in-chief, serving for 35 years (1902-1937). The focus developed during her time at the museum was on teaching children about a wide variety of subjects--from art, to natural science, to world cultures--using museum-quality collections in an interactive manner.