The Children’s Museum of Houston (CMH) is a children's museum in the Museum District in Houston, Texas. The museum is one of 190 children's museums in the United States and 15 children's museums in Texas.
The Museum was founded in 1980 by a group of Houston parents who hoped to elevate early childhood development to a community-wide priority. The museum opened in 1984, and it originally leased space from the Blaffer Gallery of the University of Houston. Several years later, it moved to 11,000-square-foot (1,000 m2) of leased space in the former Star Engraving Company Building on Allen Parkway.
The current facility, located at 1500 Binz in Houston’s Museum District, opened in November 1992. Patricia C. Johnson of the Houston Chronicle said that the facility is "colorful." The building, at the time the one of the furthest east museums in the Museum District, had 44,000 square feet (4,100 m2) of space. It was designed to accommodate 350,000 annual visitors. The building was designed by Robert Venturi, who studied child psychology and wanted to instill an idea of universality within the Museum. By 1997 the museum was having up to 700,000 annual visitors. Tammie Kahn, the executive director in 2009, said that by the year 1997 it was, as paraphrased by Jennifer Leahy of the Houston Chronicle that "apparent that the popular place needed more space." The museum began plans to move to a new location in the late 1990s.
In 2006 the museum had 600,000 annual visitors, making it over capacity. A 47,000-square-foot (4,400 m2), $35 million expansion increased the museum by over twice its original size. The expansion opened in 2009. The museum now has 90,000 square feet (8,400 m2) of space.
After 1992, the museum's administrative and support offices were on the second floor of the facility. As of the 2009 move, the administrative and support offices moved to a 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2) newly constructed facility at the intersection of Binz and Crawford, one and one half city blocks from the museum facility. The outreach program Institute for Family Learning now occupies the second floor.
Since the building’s expansion in 2009, the Museum has served more than 1,100,000 people annually and operates as a 501(c)(3) under the direction of a Board of Directors.
The museum broke ground on August 27, 2007 for the new museum wing. The expansion will result in doubling the museum’s size to a total of 83,000 square feet (7,700 m2). This expansion will expand the museum's bilingual, community-based outreach programs and provide classrooms and lab spaces through the museum’s Institute for Family Learning. Also, the museum’s on-site Houston Public Library branch will double in size. The new building addition will seamlessly join the current building and will house seven new exhibit galleries designed to provide families with interactive learning experiences. Funding for this new building came from a capital campaign that raised over $35.5 million.
Across the street from the main facility is the E. Rudge Allen Jr. Family Education Annex. Designed by Jackson & Ryan, it was completed in 2009.
As of 2009 the Association of Children's Museums states that the museum is the fifth most attended children's museum in the United States. In addition, every year the outreach programs of the museum serve 150,000 people. In 2009 Tammie Kahn, the executive director, said that social service agencies and outreach programs serving schools together provide tickets serving over 30 percent of the museum's visitors. This is so children of all socioeconomic levels may go to the museum.
In a 2005 ranking of children's museums MSN.com ranked it in first place in general. In 2001 Child Magazine ranked the museum in second place, after the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, in consideration of availability of staff, diversity of exhibits, and the overall experience.
Parents magazine rated it as "America’s No. 1 Children’s Museum." Nickelodeon Parent’s Picks named it the "Best Museum in Houston 2009 & 2010." KPRC-TV (Click2Houston) called it the “Best Museum 2010." Forbes magazine ranked it as a top children's museum. The museum is Citysearch.com’s nationwide 5-star children's museum.