The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest in terms of size at just under 500,000 square feet sitting on a 30-acre campus. The museum hosts more than 1.3 million visitors annually.
Their collections feature more than 130,000 artifacts, including a drum that once belonged to Indianapolis’ Edward Black (1853-1871), thought to have been the youngest Civil War soldier. Black enlisted as a drummer boy in July 1861, at only eight years old. He carried this drum in the war.
Larger than Life
TCM is home to the original Bumblebee movie prop from Transformers. Three hundred fiberglass parts cast from 200 custom molds make up the 17-foot, 2,000-pound movie prop from the 2007 Transformers movie. It took three sculptors and four mold makers to make the fiberglass parts, plus three sculptors to build Bumblebee’s frame. But, in just three months, the FXperts, Inc. team took an idea and created a superstar.
Michael Bay, the film’s director, specifically requested Bumblebee so that they could use a full-size Transformer in the filming. As a result, Bumblebee was used prominently in all the movie’s critical scenes, and he became one of the most popular Transformers.
Towering 26.5 feet into the air, TCM has North America’s largest water clock. With more than 40 glass pieces blown in factories throughout Europe, specifically for this tower, 100 metal pieces and 70 gallons of a mixture that combines water and methyl alcohol, all the parts create the clock.
TCM is home to one of Dale Chihuly’s largest glass-blown sculptures. The 43-foot-tall sculpture features 3,200 pieces of glass. When we visited, we sat on the museum’s lower level, on a revolving platform, viewing the illuminated ceiling. The tower weighs about nine tons, and the ceiling weighs approximately 10 tons.
Designers planned the museum around a 55-ton steam engine. The 35-foot, 55-ton behemoth of a locomotive has been a staple at the museum since the late 1960s. However, there was a time when the Reuben Wells was the most formidable locomotive globally, pushing instead of pulling train cars up Madison Hill in southern Indiana, which was then the steepest railroad grade in the nation.
TCM also has a National Historic Landmark inside the museum—a Dentzel carousel that is more than 100 years old and plays music from a Wurlitzer organ. They also have a living Anne Frank Tree, an original sapling from the oak tree that sat outside the annex where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during WWII.
TCM has a dinosaur called Dracorex hogwartsia, the first-ever of its genus and species. The National Geographic’s cover featured the dinosaur, and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis had the honor of naming it. After a naming contest, they named Dracorex for dragonlike and hogwartsia after the school in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series of books.
The museum has another dinosaur, a Gorgosaur, with a brain tumor. Scientists now question whether it’s a brain tumor or a growth.
TCM has two real paleo prep labs. They clean and prep Jurassic period fossils that the museum’s scientists discovered in the badlands of Wyoming. Most of those fossils are now on display in the new Dinosphere that opened in March 2022.
TCM also has a wet archeology lab where they are cleaning and prepping cannons buried at sea for decades. See the exhibit within National Geographic Treasures of the Earth.
The Indianapolis Children’s Museum features several museums within the museum. One example is the National Art Museum of Sport, which currently features the art of Olympic artist LeRoy Nieman, resides within TCM.
Their American Pop Culture exhibit displays Batman memorabilia, part of the world’s second-largest collection of Batman memorabilia. In addition, you’ll find items like Lady Gaga’s shoes and Taylor Swift’s dress. The collection also features part of their 17,000-piece comic book collection and lunchboxes with pop stars. Everyone that loves retro trends will want to see this display.
More than museums, TCM is the only museum in the nation with a public library on its premises, called infoZone.
You don’t even need a child to have fun at TCM.
For fun things to do with kids in Michigan, check out these articles:
- 4 Michigan Children’s Gardens: Move Learning Outdoors
- Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden in East Lansing
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What a great museum; I haven’t heard about the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis before. I think even adults have a lot of fun there. I would love to visit it to photograph dinosaurs or Bumblebee.
Agreed. I once wrote an article that said the Children’s Museum is a bit of a misnomer, as it is fun for adults too!