Body gallery to get £3m injection

Chief executive Leigh-Anne Stradeski  at Eureka!, the National Childrens Museum in Halifax.
Chief executive Leigh-Anne Stradeski at Eureka!, the National Childrens Museum in Halifax.
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FOR two decades an interactive gallery which allows children to learn about how their bodies work has been the most popular attraction at a Yorkshire museum which has drawn in millions of visitors.

Now Eureka, the National Children’s Museum in Halifax, is preparing to carry out a £3m transformation of the Me and My Body exhibit to bring it into the 21st century.

It has so far raised £2.4m towards the total and is now appealing for businesses and fund-raisers to help turn the plans into a reality.

Building work on the new exhibit is expected to start in November with it being launched in spring next year.

The new gallery will follow a similar format to the existing one as children are able to move around the exhibit learning how their body works and how it will change.

Existing features such as a skeleton bike which allows children to see how their bones work and a large human mouth will remain but there will also be new features to make the attraction more up-to-date.

This not only means updated technology but focusing on major issues surrounding young people’s health such as childhood obesity and smoking while still encouraging children to learn through play.

The exhibit allows children to learn about everything from cells in their skin to how their heart and brain works and how baby’s grow in the womb.

Children will be able to tour a health centre in which they see a scan of themselves. The new gallery has been planned for three years and ideas within it have been developed with the help of a committee of children.

Eureka’s chief executive Leigh-Anne Stradeski said: “Me and my body has been consistently our most popular gallery. The theme is still highly relevant helping children to learn about there bodies and how they work.

“The new gallery, as well as being about the body and how it works and going into areas of biology and physiology, is also going to be about helping children make choices. With issues and concerns around the problem of childhood obesity – there is something in the media almost every day about the crisis – and issues like smoking there will be a focus on giving children the knowledge and information they need to be able to lead a good quality life and be active and fit.”

She told the Yorkshire Post that the existing gallery had remained the most popular at Eureka despite it now being 20 years old.

“Exhibits tend to last about five years but Me and My Body has remained relevant for 20. I think this is because of the strength of the concept. The new gallery will use modern technology to bring it into the 21st century but children have so much these days which is done with the touch of a screen. At Eureka we see ourselves as an antidote to that. We offer an experience that is tactile.”

The museum also has ambitious plans to revamp its play area outside the museum into a new 21st century playscape and to boost its links with Halifax town centre so that visitors to the museum can provide a boost to the local economy.

It also aims to build a new shop and cafe block which will free up space with the museum for visiting exhibitions and performances.

The majority of funding for the new gallery has come from the Wellcome Trust which awarded Eureka £1.45m. Now it has to find another £400,000 to meet its target.

Mrs Stradeski said: “We are appealing to businesses who might share our values and interests who would want to be involved in the new gallery.

“It is a challenge raising funds in the current environment. We are a charity and we don’t get any kind of core funding. It is a challenge to keep going in the current environment.

“A lot of our donations come from trusts and foundations but we find that they are awarding less money than the used to.”