Three-year-old twins Layla and Lilith Palmer on Friday explored the Maine Discovery Museum in downtown Bangor for the first time.
They pretended to be doctors and listened to dolls’ heartbeats. They donned red firefighter hats and pointed hoses to douse imaginary flames.
The girls ran from display to display eager to touch and try everything.
The Palmer girls and their parents, Danielle Franks, 34, and Derrick Palmer, 37, of Carmel were one of the first families to visit the museum since it reopened to the public on Thursday after shutting down nearly two years. The museum reopened to members in January after being closed since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are very excited to be here,” Derrick Palmer said, who added that the family had traveled to the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine in Portland last year because the Bangor museum was closed.
The museum is limiting its hours and the number of visitors inside the museum to 80 at time, according to Autumn Allen, director of museum services. Pre-registration is required, and all visitors over the age of 2 must wear masks.
The museum expects to boost that limit to 100 during the upcoming school vacation week, which will coincide with the return of the Maine Principals’ Association high school basketball tournament, Allen said.
Families have embraced the idea of having fewer people in the museum, and not just for COVID safety reasons.
“Our maximum capacity under the fire code is 325, but that does not let people move around easily and explore things,” Allen said.
Rentals of the museum for private parties for birthdays and other events also have been popular after hours and on Sundays, she said.
The museum averaged about five such bookings per year before the pandemic. Now, there are 10 a month scheduled, in spite of the $300 charge for members and $350 charge for non-members.
Many of the parents who brought their children to the museum on Friday are members and come to the museum often.
Meagan Benevides, 33, of Bradford has been bringing her children, Anthony, 3½, and Everett, 1, to the museum once a week since it reopened Jan. 6.
“It is great for them to get out once a week and run around and play,” she said.
Hermon mom Rebecca Briggs agreed. She brought her 8-year-old son, Landon, who is homeschooled, and 3-year-old daughter, Hadley, to the museum so they could “explore new things.”
Landon’s favorite activities at the museum are “playing doctor, going in the treehouse, going in the egg and getting on the boat.”
While the museum has been closed, planning for new exhibits has been underway. The museum is transforming the dentist’s office exhibit next to the popular doctor’s office into a veterinary clinic.
The museum will open an exhibit next month about the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s original piece “The Warming Sea,” composed by conductor Lucas Richman. It is being presented by the Maine Science Festival, of which the museum is a sponsor.
The museum, which opened in February 2001 in the former Freese’s Department Store and has been considered a catalyst for downtown Bangor’s redevelopment, is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.
It is closed for an hour for cleaning. Pre-registration is required.