AC Gilbert Discovery Village

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Migin on December 29, 2003

Alfred Carlton Gilbert could have been a doctor, but instead was a magician, an Olympian, and an inventor. Born in Salem in 1884 he showed an early proficiency in performance of magic and athletics, as well as an interest in inventing things. At the 1908 London Olympic Games he won a gold medal. Instead of going into practice after medical school he co-founded the Mysto Manufacturing Company to make and sell magic sets. At 29, he created the Erector Set. By the time of his death, in 1961, he held 150 patents.

Most of the buildings in the A.C. Discovery Village have been relocated to this place from elsewhere in the city to create this neighborhood in miniature. The core of the Village is the only remaining house in Salem once belonging to a Gilbert family member. A.C.’s uncle Andrew built the Queen Anne style Victorian in 1887. There are exhibits about A.C., his toys, and other local history on display.

Actually a Children's Museum, more than a venue for local history, with many hands on activities and exhibits spread throughout the various buildings. And then outside there it is, that weird construct you could see when you arrived; the world's largest Erector Set tower. Over 6,000 volunteers constructed it in the "backyard" using over 20 miles of lumber and 2 tons of fastenings with 346 businesses contributing, in 19 days. Wow! Explore and have fun.

A.C. believed learning should always be fun. The activities fall into several broad categories (my invention) meant to instruct and entertain:
--"Tests" by building earthquake proof structures, take astronaut physical challenges, solve puzzles and brain teasers.
--"Sets" for children to play at being somewhere else: a forest, a Maasai village, outer space.
--"Exploration" with optical illusions, light, airflow, color, physics.
--"Multi-cultural Exposure." The newest of these rotating exhibits is the Russian/Ukrainian folktale room. This also fits under sets.

Other activities and Events:
--Mondays 11am-11.30am is storytime.
--Download the current calendar (pdf) at the Events page.
--In summer they run science camps.

The National Toy Hall of Fame was also here until it outgrew the location and moved to the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York. If you’re ever in that area check it out.

A.C. Discovery Village is located (Map and directions) next to the Marion Street Bridge at the northern end of Riverfront Park (my entry) where the Salem Riverfront Carousel (journal entry) is located.

Open: Mon.-Sat. 10am-5pm, Sun. 12pm-5pm. Closed New Year's, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Days.
Contact: 503-371-3631, (fax) 503-316-3485,, (form)

AC Gilbert Discovery Village
116 Marion Street Northeast
Salem, Oregon
(503) 371-3631

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