Our Mission

Our Mission Statement: The Children's Museum of Wilmington stimulates children's imagination, curiosity, and love of learning through interactive and age appropriate science, math and art activities.

Our Goal: For all visitors to learn amazing things about themselves and the world in which we live through informal, playful, hands-on and child-directed experiences. In our warm and inviting environment, children find ample opportunity to explore and better understand art, science, culture, and more through engaging exhibits and weekly programs.

Location: 116 Orange Street in beautiful downtown Wilmington, North Carolina.

How You Can Help: The Children's Museum of Wilmington a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and depends upon donations to continue its mission of providing a safe and fun place where children can actively learn through creative and imaginative play! 

Donations and Sponsorship opportunities are available, needed and greatly appreciated!

A Brief History

The Beginnings

Beginning in 1991, a task force of local parents began pursuing the idea of a "hands-on" learning through play center. The Junior League of Wilmington, NC became involved and assisted in the further development of the idea. After several years of research and study by parents, community leaders and educators, the Wilmington Children's Museum opened its doors on October 10, 1997.

A New Home

With a growing community and a copious amount of children ready to learn and play, it soon became apparent that the current site could not accommodate the increased numbers of guests. The museum was expanding. More programs were being introduced and new exhibits were being made. The love for the museum was already growing and... so was its size. So, it became time for more space!

Historic Downtown Wilmington

To meet the steadily growing number of visitors, in 2004 the Museum purchased the three buildings that comprised the former St. John's Museum of Art as the new site for The Children's Museum of Wilmington (CMoW). The St. John's Masonic Lodge, Greek Orthodox Church, and The Cowan House are dear pieces of Downtown Wilmington's history. They are preserved today as CMoW's new home.

St. John's Masonic Lodge:

A Georgian style structure completed in 1805 by St. John's Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, designed by Joseph Jacobs and Built by his brother Benjamin Jacobs. The historic building still holds the original Masonic Mural done by a Frenchman name Bellanger. George Washington was a known Mason and may have stayed in the lodge during his time visiting the port city.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church:

Completed in 1945, the church became a center, catering to the influx of Greek families of the Orthodox faith settling in Wilmington. The church later purchased a neighboring house serving as a home for the priest and his family.

The Cowan House:

Dating back to the 1800's, the Cowan House was built for the Cowan family from 1816 to 1871. The family briefly operated a free school for the community. The building served as a place for helping children learn for over 180 years. It's legacy live on in the Children's Museum of Wilmington, housing the museum's party and art room which were once the house's parlor and sitting room respectively.

For the community, for the children

Begun by parents, The Children's Museum of Wilmington works to instill, in children, a true passion for learning. This is done with the best and most natural way for a child to learn; through play! The museum explores everything from art and science to cooking and conservation, all with the local community in mind.

  • We have more than 17,000 square feet of play space and 12 permanent exhibits.
  • Jim Karl is our Executive Director. Jim has more than 35 years of management experience in corporate and higher education sectors and has held leadership positions in both for-profit and non-profit entities.
  • We partner with UNC Wilmington to provide internships for many fields of study.
  • We first opened in 1997 and moved to our new location on Orange Street in 2006.
  • We have 5 full-time staff, 7 part-time, and an excess of 30 volunteers and interns each semester.
  • More than 55,000 visitors come through the Museum each year.
  • We have been recognized as Wilmington’s “Best Family Museum” by Wilmington Parent magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
  • Our STEM program for 1st graders, Bright Minds, sponsored by Duke Energy was renewed for a second year and is currently serving 700 public school children.
  • Nearly half of our fundraising event income is tied to three successful events. YachtVenture, our largest fundraiser, is a unique event on the waterfront where guests have the opportunity to explore the area’s finest yachts. The annual “Fore the Children” Golf Tournament at Cape Fear Country Club allows teams to tee off to support our children. Our adult fundraiser, Pizza Putt, offers 18 holes of mini golf with food and beverage around the Museum.

Our Team

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Jim Karl

Executive Director

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Jessica Davis info_outline

Museum Educator

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Jessica is one of the lovely educators at CMoW. Some of her responsibilities include programming and teaching some of our daily programs, planning some monthly events, and coordinating volunteers. The Museum was a good fit for her because she can still be involved with children during our programs (She was previously a preschool teacher) but she also gets to gain experience in many different avenues. A fun fact about Jessica is she never thought she would become a crazy cat lady, but thanks to KiKi, that is now a reality for her.

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Sloane Philipp info_outline

Museum Educator

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Sloane has worked and volunteered at various children's and nature museum for 10 years. She started at the Museum as a summer camp instructor in 2014 and has been here ever since! Currently she is a Museum Educator and is the Program Director for several grant-funded programs. She also works on monthly events, Nature Navigators, STEAM Explorations, and with our Service Learning volunteers. Fun fact: Before she took the job at the museum, she was a wild animal caretaker!

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Mary Ellen Laughnan info_outline

Art and Early Childhood Educator

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Mary Ellen has been with the Museum for 13 years (lucky 13!) and these days you'll find her at the Museum just a few mornings a week, teaching Kids Cooking Club and StoryCOOKS, the Museum's cooking programs, or setting up the activities in the Art Studio. She is the mother of a sweet preschooler and a smiley baby who are often her museum assistants. She loves reading, knitting, and relaxing at the beach, although these days her go-to books are board books and her time at the beach is spent wrangling two sandy kiddos and digging with backhoes, front loaders and bulldozers.

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Kathleen King info_outline

Director of Guest Services and Operations

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Kathleen has been with the Museum since she was a kid herself, she started part time when she was just 15! Kathleen handles booking Field Trips, Birthday Parties, Girl Scout programming among other things. Kathleen loves crafting, traveling, and baking yummy goodies for the staff to try. You can generally find her around the front desk or in her office directly across from it, stop by and say hi!

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Aleigh Fisher Brilhante info_outline

Director's Assistant

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Aleigh's official title is "Director's Assistant" which means she does a little bit of everything. Her main roles are management and structure of the Part-Time Staff, some financials, and assisting with programs, field trips, and outreaches. She was drawn to the Museum because it combines her 2 favorite things: kids and causes. She also loves that something different happens every day and only here is she able to utilize and develop skills that range from fixing toilets to planning large scale community events. In her free time she loves to practice calligraphy but most nice days you will find her outside on her hammock reading a book.

Dr. Richard Lawson

Director of Advancement

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Lori Wilson info_outline

Grant Writer

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Lori Wilson is our Museum grant writer. You may not see her around much but you can bet she is hard at work in the tower upstairs office working on submissions that will help fund some of the amazing things we do at CMoW! Lori lives with her pup, Italics, and the one and only miniature pot pelly pig, Louisa May (aka Little Lou Lou).

Board of Directors

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Harriett Loweth info_outline

Board President

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Harriett is from Wilson, NC.  She has 2 degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill, BA and MBA, and once worked in brand management at P&G and RJR Nabisco.  She became a community volunteer when she moved to Wilmington in 1990 and has been on the board of the Children’s Museum of Wilmington all but four years since it opened in 1997.  Harriett and her husband, Bob, have two “twenty-something” children, Robert and Katharyn.

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William Paris info_outline

President Elect

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Bill is married with two grown children and five grandchildren. He attended Penn State University and University of Connecticut and retired to Wilmington in 1997 after a career, first, as an aerospace engineer, and then as a marketing executive in Connecticut. Bill has been active in The Big Buddy Program of Wilmington, Cameron Executive Network, Landfall Tradition College Golf Tournament, Rotary, and Children's Museum. Bill's interests include photography, golf, travel, and physical fitness.

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Larry Sackett info_outline

Board Member

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Larry is a retired technology and marketing executive who moved to Wilmington in 2010. He is on the boards of the Arboretum’s Ability Garden and the Children’s Museum of Wilmington. He is a member of the Wilmington Rotary Club and a part-time correspondent for the StarNews. At the Children’s Museum, his focus is on the organization’s website and marketing software.

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Lindsay Prickett info_outline

Board Member

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Lindsay joined The Children's Museum of Wilmington Board in 2014. Currently, she is involved in the community through her church,  JDRF, Gregory Elementary PTA, and The Harrelson Center where she works in the area of Development. She and her husband Warren have two daughters and enjoy traveling and spending time at the beach. 

Rob Zapple info_outline

Board Member

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Commissioner Rob Zapple is currently serving his first term of office having been elected to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners in November 2014.


Rob is a graduate of the University of Virginia and a NC licensed General Contractor and owner of a design/build company working in residential and commercial markets throughout New Hanover and Brunswick Counties.  He and his wife, Michele, have been married for 33 years and have three children who attended public schools in New Hanover County and all have graduated from NC universities.  Michele and Rob are co-owners of Carolina Gymnastics Academy, a recreational and competitive gymnastics gymnasium in Wilmington, NC.


In 2014 Rob became one of only four Democrats in the past 32 years to have been elected to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.  He was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, New Hanover County Board of Health, New Hanover County Parks Conservancy, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, New Hanover County Smart Start, and the New Hanover County Cape Fear Museum.


Commissioner Zapple is an active member of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo). He was appointed to the NCACC’s Legislative Goals Committee in 2016 and is a member of the NACo, Environment, Energy and Land Use Steering Committee.


Prior to being elected to office, Commissioner Zapple was chairman of the Board of Trustees for Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts – a 158 year old historic building that serves as the seat of government for the City of Wilmington and has in the same building a 600 seat theater that is the center of the arts and cultural world of New Hanover County. He also served for 10 years, including two years as vice chairman of the Board of Directors for WHQR- 91.3 FM, Public Radio.  Additionally, he is a member of the Board of Directors for the Children’s Museum of Wilmington and a past member of the Board of Directors for the Cape Fear Green Building Alliance. 


Commissioner Zapple has achieved practitioner level status at the Local Elected Leaders Academy (LELA) – a partnership with the NCACC the NC League of Municipalities and the School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill, offering elected officials the education and skills they need to lead and govern their communities.

Landon Zimmer info_outline

Board Member

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Landon Zimmer is a partner at the law firm of Zimmer and Zimmer, LLP and a consultant for Reeds Jewelers, Inc. He obtained a BA, JD, and MBA from Duke University. He Serves on the board of the North Carolina Department of Transportation and is also a Commissioner for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission as well as a member of various professional, civic, and social organizations

Career Opportunities

Currently we are not hiring for any positions.