This article originally ran in the Cleveland Daily Banner on August 12, 2019
Trek Thru Truth, a Christian children’s museum being proposed for Cleveland, is getting closer to becoming reality as designs for it begin to take shape.
Douglas Caywood, president of Trek Thru Truth’s board, says the museum will tell more than 52 stories from the Bible with exhibits, hands-on activities, music, drama and more.
“It would really be the only one of its kind in the nation,” Caywood said. “We are really excited to bring this to Cleveland.”
The idea for the museum came about several years ago after he and his wife, Jill, took one of their sons to the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga. He said they were “amazed” at how the exhibits engaged their son and made him excited about learning new things.
Because of their Christian beliefs, they hoped to find a Bible-themed children’s museum for them to visit as well. However, they could not find one that was interactive and geared toward children. They later decided to look into starting one themselves.
“We really didn’t find anything like it in the nation,” Caywood said. “We thought, ‘What a better place than Cleveland?’ We have many churches, major church denominations based here and a Christian university.”
“We’re also centrally located, not far from cities like Chattanooga and Knoxville and between Atlanta and Nashville,” he added.
In 2006, a board was formed, and board members began looking seriously at the feasibility of starting the museum in Cleveland.
Since then, the board has through steps such as developing a business plan, conducting a feasibility study, evaluating the area’s traffic and interviewing designers.
The current plan is to build a museum spanning between 60,000 and 70,000 square feet. It would eventually hold 52 permanent exhibits, as well as spaces for rotating exhibits, a theater and more.
Those planning the museum now believe it could eventually draw in between 100,000 and 150,000 visitors a year, both locals and tourists.
“There has been a lot of research going into this, and we believe it can be successful,” said Caywood.
The museum has gained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and is now raising funds to buy land, construct the building and equip all the permanent exhibits.
Caywood estimates the total project, including the exhibits, will require about $20 million. The proposed building has been broken into four construction phases, each requiring $5 million to complete.
“We hope to break ground on this in 2020,” Caywood said. “We are working on faith that it will happen.”
There are currently three locations in the running for the new museum, all of which are in Bradley County. The board hopes to make its location selection and purchase land once it is further along in the fundraising process.
In the meantime, designs for the museum are taking shape. Caywood, managing principal for Lewis Group Architects in Cleveland, has been working on a possible building design.
The museum is also working with Joe McCullough of local company Theme Fusion and Jonathan Martin with JMC Museum Arts to design the museum’s eventual exhibits.
These include an exhibit about the Israelites fleeing Egyptian oppression through the Red Sea which will include large aquariums with live fish, to allow visitors to feel like they are walking through the sea. An interactive water feature for children will also help tell the story of how Miriam kept baby Moses safe by hiding him in a basket floating on the river.
Other exhibits, such as replicas of Zacchaeus’ sycamore tree, the interior of Noah’s ark and Paul and Silas’ jail cell, will allow visitors to become immersed in the accompanying stories from the Bible.
“We’re trying to relate the exhibits to all five senses,” said Caywood. “We think this is really going to be something families enjoy.”
Trek Thru Truth’s board members have been visiting interested churches and civic groups, as well as events like the Church of God of Prophecy General Assembly held recently in Chattanooga. Caywood said the feedback has been “very enthusiastic” so far.
More sneak peeks of the proposed museum will be shared during a fundraising gala scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. at the Westmore Church of God Element building, located at 2450 Legacy Parkway. Tickets are $75 each, and corporate tables for seven can be reserved for $1,000. The deadline to RSVP is Monday.
For more information on the museum’s plans or to RSVP, visit www.trekthrutruth.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-665-9229.