The Children’s Museum of the East End started with a conversation around a kitchen table in Amagansett. In 1997, seven mothers gathered weekly because they were very disappointed at the few educational opportunities for children on the East End of Long Island. Inspired by the excitement they and their children experienced at the new children’s museums that were opening and helping to define communities around the country, they began meeting regularly at each other’s homes. They hit on the idea of launching a new organization that would teach children about the East End and world around them by promoting learning through play.
Calling their idea the “Children’s Museum of the East End” or CMEE, the mothers launched a pilot project exhibit to gauge community interest in a local children’s museum. The exhibit was built with the volunteer efforts of many talented carpenters, artists, and educators, and the generous support of local businesses and families. In just fourteen weeks at Guild Hall in East Hampton, five thousand people visited the exhibit, confirming the belief that the East End needed a children’s museum.
In October 1998, the original founders had added to their numbers and organized a Board of Trustees. After sponsoring a feasibility study to determine the level of interest and support for CMEE in the community, they discovered there was overwhelming interest in the concept. To make their dream a reality, the Board embarked on a capital campaign.
With the support of hundreds of stakeholders in the community, CMEE opened its current home in Bridgehampton in October 2005. With over 7,000 square feet of exhibition and program space designed by Lee Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, CMEE soon became one of the most visited museums in Eastern Long Island bringing in nearly 75,000 visitors annually. CMEE upholds its mission “to spark imagination and foster learning for children of all backgrounds and abilities and to build strong connections within the East End community by providing playful experiences” by presenting educational exhibits and programs and by partnering with other arts and social service organizations to address issues that concern families in the community.