Our Museum History
The idea for CDM was born in 1989 as the board of the Hunter Museum of American Art evaluated the viability of developing a children’s wing. The board recommended a separate children’s museum be created as part of the revitalization of downtown. CDM was incorporated in 1992 and opened in 1995.
It quickly evolved into a multi-disciplinary, educational institution, utilizing interactive programs and exhibits to explore art, music, science and technology. In 2004, CDM acquired the NewsChannel9 Science Theater in Northgate Mall which has become a key component of its science education efforts. The Science Theater relocated to the Museum’s main campus in 2010. In 2005, the Museum completed a major renovation which included the installation of the RiverPlay exhibit, an outdoor rooftop exhibit focusing on simple machines, and Buzz Alley exploring the world of bees.
Today, CDM is one of Chattanooga’s most dynamic and innovative cultural resources earning accolades for innovation and quality including:
- Six national awards from the Institute of Museum and Library Science (IMLS)
- Best practices awards from the Association of Children’s Museums
- Best Children’s Museum rankings from Child Magazine (13th in 2002) and Trekaroo (7th in 2015)
- Best of the Best Museum, Chattanooga (2019)
- Pinnacle Award from the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration for its distance learning programs (2016 and 2019)
- First museum in Tennessee to join the Museum for All initiative, in which a significantly reduced-price admission is offered to families in the EBT program
- Certified as a KultureCity® Sensory Inclusive™ organization, meaning the Museum is accessible to children with special needs on a daily basis (2019)
- One of six museums and/or science centers selected by the Association of Science and Technology Center’s to join the Cultural Competence Learning Institute (CCLI, 2019)