The more you know

Caren Swobe

Photo By dennis myers

A new museum for children, the Nevada Discovery Museum, is planned in Reno. Honchoing the effort is Reno public relations consultant Caren Swobe. Information on the museum can be obtained at

Why a children’s museum?

We need—especially with helping the education system right now—kids need exposure to interactive, hands-on learning experiences. We use the term open-ended, and open-ended means that every time they use a project as part of an exhibit, they’ll get different results. So it’s a great resource for families in the community to supplement their day-to-day activities.

Someone mentioned to me that he thought this was the first thing the community has done for kids since the little railroad in Idlewild Park was built.

You can go out for certain populations, like the Boys and Girls Clubs is fantastic, its staff is great. But we haven’t really done anything for every single kid in the community. Rancho San Rafael is probably the most recent. You know, Moana pool’s closed. The planetarium is still there, but that was built a long time ago. So I’ve struggled, and so have a lot of other people. What has been done that benefits every kid in the community. And since I was a kid, I can’t really think of anything. … No one has been able to come up with anything. They’ll come up with something that either costs too much money for every kid to participate in … or they end up with something that helps with under-served populations. But we just haven’t done anything that any kid can come in and feel at home and interact and, you know, it’s theirs. It’s a gift for every kid in the city.

I guess what I was getting at was, why do you think that is so?

It is interesting, and I think a lot of feasibility studies said we would not be able to raise as much money as we did. The first feasibility study said the maximum we would raise is $12 million. And then one said tops would be $16 million. [The museum raised $19.6 million.] And that’s what’s the beauty of this project, is just the outpouring. I’ve never seen anything like it. I mean, the people that have given money—like Terry Lee Wells [Foundation] gave their largest gift. A lot of the foundations, this is their largest gift ever. One foundation told us it was their largest gift they’ve given out other than to a university. The thirst for something like this, the need, everybody recognized the need was there and just needed to find an opportunity.

Do you worry that this will have a negative impact on the Carson City museum [the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada]?

No, I don’t worry about it because I think we can partner with them. I think we can partner with the Wilbur May Museum [at Rancho San Rafael]. I think it brings more awareness to children’s museums in general. A lot of people don’t even know that the Carson one is there because no one has enough money to advertise. … If you’re in Carson City, it’s a great place to take your young kids.

Your target audience?

Seven to 10 is our target. We go birth to 12, and we’ll probably go beyond 12. … We’ll have stuff for itty bitty kids. We have, actually, an exhibit called “Little Discoveries” for kids under 5 so they don’t get lost in the shuffle, and at every exhibit, we will have stuff for kids under 5. In every exhibit except for Little Discoveries we’ll have something for all the ages. … But 7 to 10 is our core.

And when will it open?

I think we’re saying late 2011. … We’re hoping for sooner. The exhibits take longer than the construction. The construction we’re pretty positive can be done in a year, but exhibits take a little bit longer. So we’re not promising sooner.