CROWN HEIGHTS — For newcomers, Brooklyn seems caught in throes of unprecedented change. But for the new head of the borough's storied Children's Museum, change is the only constant.
"When I did find myself back here, it was very moving — it is kind of a feeling of coming home," said Mindy Duitz, the newly-appointed interim head of the country's oldest children's museum. "Brooklyn has changed dramatically in the last 18 years. The opportunities in Brooklyn seem so much greater."
Duitz, who shepherded the institution through some of the surrounding neighborhood's darkest days, began her second stint at the museum in January, taking over for former executive director Georgina Ngozi, who left with little fanfare this past October.
"I have been honored to serve this wonderful institution as it blossomed following the opening of the Museum's new building three years ago," Ngozi said in a release announcing her departure. "[The museum] maintains its history of leadership — not just as the world's first children's museum, but as a leader in combining education with entertainment for a uniquely diverse population of families."
That "uniquely diverse population" has not always been easy to serve. Duitz's last tenure was marked by the 1991 Crown Heights riots, a crisis the institution took head on.
"At that time in Crown Heights, we were working very hard in the museum in introducing kids and families to all different cultures, so we were already very positioned to be a gathering place," Duitz said. "I remember saying, we can’t make peace in the world, but we do bring people together on a regular basis."
As the neighborhood continues to grow and change, that mission remains critically important, Duitz said. Fortunately, bringing diverse interests together is what the Brooklyn Children's Museum does best.
"The story of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is location, location, location," Duitz said.
"We've been in this spot in this neighborhood for our entire history, and served a neighborhood as well as the whole borough and the whole city," she said.
"I think the neighborhood focus has always defined and made the museum a very welcoming place for this very diverse population that you don’t usually see in most museums."