Western Maine Play Museum has hired Joni James as Executive Director. Pictured at right with James is WMPM President Lori Lewis. Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Pam Harnden


WILTON — After six years of planning and fundraising, Western Maine Play Museum has hired an executive director and has its opening set.

Joni James, a longtime WMPM volunteer, will begin her executive director duties July 15.

Several years ago, she created a promotional video for the museum and designed its first website.

James, who also volunteers for the schools, has experience with family photography and videography. She and her husband, Tory, have two children: Danny, 12, and Zinnia 15.

She said her goals are to offer a safe space for kids to play.

“We have a lot of outdoor parks. Having an indoor space to exercise brains and bodies, provide something like that in this community is pretty special,” James said. “It’s also important to have a space like this for young moms and dads to hang out and connect with others.

“I wish I had something like this when my kids were little.”

She said those connections tend to be lifelong and for parents to find those connections locally is very important.

WMPM is a value to the community with people excited to have a rental space for parties. In the future, school vacation or overnight camps are possible.

“I see this as a huge local resource not only for families. Look at the number of businesses that have come here in the last five years. That’s not by chance. A lot of people are paying attention to us, the traffic we’ll pull in,” Lori Lewis, president of the WMPM board, said. “This (WMPM) is a gesture of faith in this community.”

Opening date plans are still being worked out, but the museum will be open July 31 and Aug. 1. One will be a day event, the other evening for museum members. It will also be open as part of the Wilton Blueberry Festival on Saturday, Aug. 3, after the parade. 30 minute increments will be available at a reduced rate for people to come in and explore, James said recently.

She said visitors may have their handprints painted on the back staircase wall. There may be an additional fee for this museum fundraiser that will also add color to the wall.

James said the goal is to be able to identify each print.

Lewis said the museum won’t be open every day at first. The open hours are still under discussion but she expects the museum to be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday and one other weekday.

“We have a lot of wiggling around still to do,” she said.

James said each room in the museum has a theme . Exhibits in the rooms will rotate.

The Building Room features Jesse’s Rainbow Factory. Designed by University of Maine Farmington art professor Jesse Potts, children will construct using pool noodles.

The Nature Room will use geography, orienteering and maps. An interactive sand box allows children to manipulate the sand. A projector lights up with different colors.

“It’s really neat. It fills in with blue like a lake at the lower levels and changes colors as it goes up,” James said.

“Jake Bogar’s engineering class at Mt. Blue High School is making it,” Lewis said.

The Magnet Room has tables with magnetic toys and a wall covered with a metal sheet where manipulatives and other toys can be used.

The Gathering Room provides a space to rent out for birthday parties and other events. Located near the kitchen it also is the Arts and Crafts Room with lots of storage space.

Lewis said, “The kitchen is unique. It is the only fully functioning museum kitchen in the state. Kids can do cooking labs with real stuff not toys. We’ll have people come in, maybe starting this fall, to do cooking programs.”

James added, “We have so many ideas.”

The second floor is where the Invention, Infant/Toddler and Train Rooms are.

“The Invention Room is cool. It has a rocket launcher that can suck fuzzy toys in and send them all around the room,” James said.

It also features a wind tunnel and car race track where children can build cares and test them for aerodynamics, weight, whatever to see which design wins the race.

The Infant/Toddler Room is a soft space for littles to ramble around. The floor is padded and foam covered objects allow young children to climb and explore.

A mural painted by David Southwick, a local art teacher who gave it to the museum as a gift, is one of the biggest features in the Train Room.

“The Train Room has all things you ever wanted to play with with trains,” James said.

The Dark Room is painted black and is completely dark. Light tables, magnetic manipulatives and neon colors offer play ideas.

“Things are translucent so light shines through them. We’ve got lots of ideas,” Lewis said.

“This room will be easily rotated with new things to experience,” James added.

A Quiet Room offers a space if a break is needed from all the excitement. Moms can change babies or nurse them. There are soft chairs and books to read plus weighted blankets and a bubble timer.

“These places can be very exciting but very overwhelming,” James said.

Galleries for student artwork will be located between the first and second floor. There is an elevator so that everyone can enjoy the museum. A ramp for handicap accessibility will be built before the opening.

The Play Village is not yet constructed and will be part of the museum’s Phase 2.

“We wanted to get the main building opened. We have lots of plans for the Play Village,” Lewis said.

For more information about membership levels or the museum, call Lewis at 645-3945 or 578-2958, visit the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/westernmaineplaymuseum/ or email [email protected]

Western Maine Play Museum announced the hiring of Executive Director Joni James at the 3rd Annual Gala and Experience Auction, seen here, on June 15th. Submitted photo

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