National Children's Museum partners with 'Sesame Street'

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011; 8:31 PM

The superstars of the young set, the characters from "Sesame Street," have agreed to be creative tenants with the National Children's Museum.

The new partnership between the museum, which is scheduled to open in 2013 at National Harbor, and Sesame Workshop, the 41-year-old nonprofit that unleashed Big Bird and Bert and Ernie on the world, was announced Thursday.

Elmo, the cuddly red Muppet, represented the gang and upstaged the important people endorsing the idea. Somehow Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) knew not to try to compete.

Peering over a black curtain, Elmo assumed a frozen position. Gary E. Knell, the workshop's president and technically Elmo's boss, asked him what he was doing. "Elmo is practicing to be a statue," he answered. The first-grade class from Watkins Elementary on Capitol Hill laughed. "Elmo heard he was going to be in a museum," continued the character.

And so it went. Elmo delivered his lines, expressing amazement at what the future museum would do. He seemed enchanted with the idea of being a tour guide. "There's Elvis on crushed velvet," Elmo said.

And since he was in a stately room at the Russell Senate Office Building, Elmo managed a political jab. Hearing that the museum will have a facsimile of the Oval Office, he said "Elmo can pretend to be commander in chief. President Elmo wants to balance the budget before naptime." This brought appreciative laughter from the adults.

The old Capital Children's Museum, a Capitol Hill fixture for 30 years, closed in 2004. Groundbreaking on the new museum is scheduled for later this year, the organizers announced Thursday. It will be designed by noted architect Cesar Pelli.

Under the agreement, the "Sesame Street" characters will become part of the museum programming through interactive exhibitions and video segments.

"They are respected and loved and share our educational viewpoint," said Kathy Dwyer Southern, the museum's president and chief executive. " 'Sesame Street' is a trusted brand, bringing educational service to kids and families, and is the best partner we could have."

Southern said the partnership will be an essential part of a planned section about global citizenship. "Sesame Street" is seen in 140 different countries.

"Together we will promote a love of learning" and understanding of the world, said Knell, when Elmo took a break.

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