An inside look at what’s coming to the Strong National Museum of Play

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Strong National Museum of Play has been closed to the public for the past week as they finish a massive expansion project. Staff at the Strong gave News10NBC a sneak peek at what new exhibits are coming.

The star of the show is a 90,000-square-foot, brand-new building, which will hold three new exhibits centered around video games.

“Video games have become a dominant form of play, and so as the National Museum of Play that’s something we felt the need to preserve and to educate and to celebrate,” CEO and President Steve Dubnik said.

One new exhibit is Level Up which includes a life-sized video game where players can create an avatar of themselves as the main character. Another exhibit, High Score, details the history of video games and even includes a replica of the first video game ever created. There will also be a gallery highlighting the art of video games.

The building also holds a new entrance and a gift shop that’s three times the size of the old one. Out by the old entrance is the Hasbro game park, which features 17,000 square feet of larger-than-life games for guests to play outdoors.

Dubnik’s favorite new feature is in this park: A 20-foot-tall dragon that breathes fire and water from the tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. Kids and adults will be able to press a glowing red button to activate the five-headed dragon.

But it’s not all about what’s new for Dubnik. It’s also about what’s been sitting in storage.

“We have a collection of more than 500,000 things of which only a small fraction is ever on display,” he said. “So expanding and creating new exhibits gives us an opportunity to increase the visibility of what we have.”

He says that the inside of the old museum will also be getting a facelift. Because The Strong is open almost every day of the year, they are taking the opportunity to deep clean just about everything in the museum.

Back outside, there are also two new common areas that will be open to the public.

“The museum expansion is really at the center of the Neighborhood of Play,” Dubnik said. “And so within that, you have places to live, places to work, places to eat, places to celebrate within there, and places to stay in the hotel that’s been built.”

The plazas will feature “Play Happened Here” placards, which talk about the history of play, reaching as far back as indigenous communities in Western New York.

Jumping to the future, the expansion will also bring an Augmented Reality butterfly experience to life, where people are able to see virtual butterflies flying around them.

“And it’s just a lot of marvels, a lot of things that no one out here has ever seen,” Dubnik said.

When asked about how high-tech the museum is getting, he laughed.

“It has to,” he said. “Play’s gotten high-tech, right? And so we have to be there along with how people play.”

The Strong Museum of Play will open back up to the public at 1 p.m. on June 30.

Strong National Museum of Play is completing a massive expansion project. (News10NBC)