The “Rivers and Bridges” exhibit at the Bettendorf Family Museum has spurred an increase in attendance since opening a month ago, museum spokeswoman Elly Gerdts said Monday.
The exhibit features replicas of the Government, Interstate 74 and Centennial bridges on which children can play, a crane that can be used to load and unload foam rubber “cargo” from a river barge, stations where children can draw or build their own bridges and a mural along the walls depicting life along the Mississippi River. A highlight is a 28-foot water table, complete with locks and dams and boats for children to float down the river.
It is part of a $1.2 million renovation project that also will include transforming part of the museum into a replica of a town’s Main Street, with storefronts designed in cooperation with local businesses.
The new exhibit opened to the public Oct. 13. In October, the museum drew about 12,600 visitors, an increase of about 4,000 from October 2011, Gerdts said.
Gerdts said the water table particularly has been a “huge hit.”
“It’s been wonderful,” she said.
On Monday, 3-year-old twins Isabelle and Brayden Mulert of Davenport were getting their hands wet playing in the water table. Isabelle was filling up cups of water and dumping them over wheels to make them turn, while her brother was busy stopping up the water, placing plastic ducks and boats in the river, and then letting the water loose to send them racing downstream.
Although the museum has smocks available to help keep the children’s clothes dry, it wasn’t enough to keep Brayden from getting wet as he stretched across the water to snag a duck that was a little out of his reach.
The twins’ mother, Jennifer Mulert, said the family bought a family membership to the museum in January, but Monday was the first time they had a chance to play in the new exhibit.
She said both of her kids enjoyed the hands-on features of the new exhibit.
Gerdts said the rivers and bridges exhibit is building excitement among museum visitors about Phase II of the project, which is expected to be complete by early February.
In addition to replicas of new businesses such as a shoe store and a fire station, the Main Street area will include updated versions of two popular current exhibits, the grocery store and the farm. Gerdts said the new exhibit will show children how food gets from the farm to the grocery store.
“Right now they’re next to each other, but they don’t really connect,” she said.