Wabash Museum Has New, Relaxing Space

A museum is oftentimes an exciting, educational space. But, just as with any public place, it can also become overwhelming due to features such as motion-triggered exhibits or loud noises.

That’s why it was important for Teresa Galley, executive director of the Wabash County Museum, 36 E. Market St., Wabash, to create a new and permanent “sensory quiet zone” for all visitors to relax.

The new exhibit, called “The Meadow,” is an accommodating space for museum guests who experience sensory overload or guests who simply want to spend time in a calm environment.

“‘The Meadow’ offers comfy seating, several calm activities, and a relaxing atmosphere,” Galley says. “The area features three 7-foot-tall trees and other custom woodwork that creates the feeling that you have just discovered a meadow in the middle of a forest.”

Planning for the exhibit started in the fall of 2021 when Galley invited an autism specialist to assess the museum to help better accommodate guests with sensory challenges.

“One of the outcomes of the assessment was the creation of a quiet space with lower lighting, softer materials and quiet activities,” Galley says.

“The theme was selected because of the relaxing feeling you get when wandering through the woods and you come across a meadow where birds are chirping and, if you’re quiet enough, you may find a woodland creature or two,” she adds.

A sign posted in the exhibit explains the area and its purpose. There are several sensory-friendly activities including a fiber-optic waterfall with felted wool stones beneath, soft rugs, natural wood blocks, a magnetic wall with blocks and gears, and adorable wooden animals. Guests have told Galley they feel calm and relaxed the minute they step into the space.

The exhibit contains child- and adult-flexible seating, as well as soft green rugs that invite visitors to sit or even lay down on the floor.

The cushion seating can also be used as a tabletop to build blocks or play with the wooden animals, Galley adds.

“We’ve tried to create a relaxing space, and our guests tell us we have done just that,” she says. “Our research shows that one in six people in Indiana are impacted by sensory issues in some way. Creating a space where guests with sensory challenges can go to connect is important to our mission. This type of space is also unique to our area, and we are proud to lead in an area that responds to the needs of everyone in our community.”

The nature-inspired exhibit additionally has a tie to Wabash County’s history. Wabash County is home to the 950-acre Salamonie River State Forest, located along the Salamonie River and home to Salamonie Lake. The area offers ample outdoor recreation opportunities. 

“Salamonie River State Forest was created as a demonstration riverside forest for the reclamation of eroded land,” Galley explains. “The state forest was established in the mid-1930’s when local people assisted the state in purchasing the hilly land and bluffs along the Salamonie River. Most of the land’s topsoil was eroded away, making reclamation of the area a major challenge.”

A 200-member Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) sprang into action by designing and planning the forest and recreation facilities, in addition to opening a stone quarry. As a result, several hundred acres of land have been reforested, and many recreation facilities now exist, including a large stone shelter house that stands near Hominy Ridge Lake.

Educating visitors about Wabash’s history through state-of-the-art exhibits and engaging programming is all part of the museum’s mission. Next month, the museum will begin a special early morning “Sensory Quiet Hour” with more details coming soon. In addition, “Pop-Up Mini Golf” will be back for the entire month of April with a regulation 9-hole miniature golf course decorated for spring. The course runs through the museum, and the cost to play is included with admission.

“We invite you to come spend a day, or more, in Wabash County,” Galley adds. “Visit the museum and then head down the block to enjoy some of our amazing shops and restaurants, visit the gallery or see a show at the Honeywell Center, and explore the many other amenities that make us proud to call Wabash home. Wabash is an excellent day trip from Allen County.”

The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission costs $6 for visitors ages 13 to 59 and $4 for seniors ages 60 and older and children ages 2 to 12. Veterans, active military duty, and children under age 2 can enter free. Various membership options are also available.

For more information, visit wabashmuseum.org or call (260) 563-9070.