Most museums you visit cover one thing. Art, history, science, salt & pepper shakers…whatever. You typically only deal with one topic in most museums. The Works in Newark is just a little bit different. The Works combines an art gallery, science experiments, and local history into one packed building. It even has some surprises for long time fans of another nearby museum.
The main Works building is a restored steam engine factory building just on the outskirts of downtown Newark. You can see several remnants of the old building from inside on the second floor. The entire Works campus actually sprawls out over 6 acres and includes several buildings (though not all are open all the time) and a large outdoor courtyard.
The first thing you come across once you pay for admission (and bypass the gift shop, for now) is the art gallery. I will note that the display we saw has closed since the time we visited and the time this was written. The displays seem to focus mostly on local artists, and the pieces are often for sale. The next exhibit is called “The American Farm” and opens July 14. The gallery isn’t big, but it’s a nice way to start a visit.
On your way to the Science Gallery, there is a small window display promoting the next big expansion of The Works. The addition of a SciDome Planetarium in 2018! I will have to come back and do an update at that time.
Once you cross the walkway (which leads to the courtyard which we’ll get to in a minute), you enter the original Scheidler Machine Works factory building, and the “Interactive Science Labs”. I love the simple touch of leaving a lot of the original brick exposed. It just gives the place a different feel. Each section of this floor is dedicated to a different topic. The Me Lab is an area talking about health and exercise, the Zap Lab is electricity and things like that. The room is packed, there is stuff to do everywhere. As we went on a Friday in summer, it was a little busy with kids running around, but we were still able to get to most things fairly easily.
My favorite areas here are the Invent Lab where kids can tear apart computers, the Driving Simulator which can simulate impaired driving (what does it say that I did better on the sim under impaired conditions than under normal conditions?) and the Look Lab which was stuffed with fun optical illusions.
The highlight of the first floor was, sadly, the one part not operating on the day we went. There is a glass studio where a professional glass blower gives demonstrations one or two times a day. I suspect you’d have better luck on a weekend. I have seen the demonstration in the past, and it’s well worth the stop. I recall it being about a 20-25 minute demonstration. As it is, there are a lot of nice glass pieces on display. Some are even available for purchase in the gift shop.
Heading upstairs, we now leave science behind, and enter the world of Licking County history. Nothing says history more than a giant mastodon skull hanging from the rafters.
Quite a bit of the first part of this floor is exactly what you’d expect to see in a local history museum: mastodon bones, Native American aarowheads, old maps etc. The most recent addition to the second floor is a large display commemorating Jerrie Mock, the (Newark born) first woman to circle the globe solo by plane. There is a mock up of her plane, a flight simulator game, and several personal artifacts on display.
Along the back wall of the floor was a display case that did a number on my nostalgia. There is a giant glass case that was basically the Evolution of Communication. It had typewriters to iPads, Wax Cylinder recorders to…well…iPads. It was really neat to see a lot of this stuff…much of which probably came from my closet.
This floor is literally stuffed with things to see. There is an incredible amount of local history on display. There are a couple panels about the Scheidler plant…
a huge wood mill display that you can actually crank to life…
several displays about local companies…
and the Land of Legend Village.
Finding The Old COSI, Part 2:
If you recall, we found parts of the original Cracker Jack exhibit in Marion at the Wyandot Popcorn Museum…we found more here. I have a feeling this one will interest even more people.
The Land of Legend Village is a small area where you can walk down a facsimile of a street…from yesteryear. For people that would like a small look back into the past, I know for a fact that at least some, if not most, of the pieces in this area did come from the Streets of Yesteryear exhibit at COSI when it moved in 1999. I don’t know how much, but judging from some old pictures, I definitely can tell the counter in the General Store
and the Candle Making areas are the same.
I suspect most of the things in this area came from there…so if you would like a small window back in time (in more ways than one), you owe it to yourself to check this exhibit out.
Once we wrapped up our history tour of Licking County, we headed out into the LeFevre Courtyard (named after Howard LeFevre, founder of The Works). Out here, there are a few “bigger” exhibits. The star being being a fully restored Interurban car.
Interurbans were electric rail cars that traveled between cities in the early 1900s. The very first line in the country tied Newark and Granville together. There were nearly 3000 miles of Interurban track in Ohio by WWI. Unfortunately, the rise of cars killed off most of these routes by the mid 1930s.
Fun fact: The Interurban on display here actually was used as a house in the 1970s before being restored and put on display. I rather like the idea of the Interurban train, and wish I had an option like this to get to work every day.
Around the rest of the courtyard are a few other fun exhibits, and is a really nice place to sit and rest, or grab a mallet and play the xylophone benches.
There is a restaurant at the building across the courtyard for your meal needs. Because of the rather open nature of this courtyard, I do note one bit of weirdness about The Works. Once you finish playing outside, you have to re-enter the museum through the front door. Since anyone can go to the restaurant, the courtyard is therefore an open area to the public as well. It makes sense to make sure people aren’t sneaking in to the museum, it’s just a little different. There is a gift shop just inside the main doors. It’s tiny, but has a little bit of everything available.
I’m a big fan of this little museum. It’s not a big sprawling mega-museum, but it is positively packed with things to do. For me personally, it took about an hour and a half to walk through and experience it all. For families I can see this being a good 3-4 hour stop. I look forward to seeing the Planetarium next year. I did mention a couple other buildings. Across the street are a Print Shop and a Wood Shop, but those only seem to be open by appointment. There is also a renovated lock from the Erie Canal (which I only learned about just recently) that doubles as a small park.
If you’d like to visit The Works yourself, please check their website for updated hours.
Next time…let’s get some ice cream.