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Found Things Friday: Catch-Up Edition

Hello! I am so sorry that I haven’t been able to blog for the past few months. Between life, work, and a government shutdown, everything has been one big crazyrandomhappenstance after another a bit crazy.

Anyways, here are five things that I’ve found in the museum in the past few months:

1. Add books, and children will read (or ask to be read to). One of our newer exhibits has a mini library at the end that contains children’s books my company has published. They’re bright, colorful, and factual. I think the books are the #2 favorite section for children in the exhibit (following the XBox Kinect game). Not only do the books get a ton of use, but they teach a valuable lesson : museums are for learning. My favorite experiences with the books so far have included a little girl loudly begging her father to read a book on ants to her (and he did) and a mother tucked in a corner on the floor with her young son reading a book (or two, as they were there over an hour!). Best easy interactive EVER.

2. Age is fun to guess (when it’s not a person). We have some excellent nighttime photography from the early 20th century in our exhibit. Last Saturday, I ran into a group of kids/preteens oohing and ahh-ing over them. I thought I’d have some fun, and asked the kids what year they thought the photos were taken. It was a lively discussion, and they really got a kick out of it (I did, too). Asking age is a perfect segue into understanding how long something has been around, learning the differences between objects through time, and relative age to other pieces of the collections. I used the technique a lot when I was interning at the National Museum of American History, and I’m happy that I can use it at my current museum.

3. A smile goes a long way.
Last Saturday was the busiest day we’ve had in a long time. It was exhausting, but fun. One customer was frustrated — he was in line but didn’t know what he was in line for. I answered his questions, frustrated myself, at first. When I started to explain our exhibits, I felt myself start to smile. I smiled. I continued to smile. I let my love for my museum seep into every action. It helped. Sure, the man still walked away frustrated, but I had cured my own frustration.

4. Parents sometimes annoy me.
I like love seeing child visitors enjoy our exhibits. Want to know what I don’t love? When parents don’t engage their kids! I have seen so many parents walk through our exhibits and never ask their children what they are thinking, point out cool things, or even talk to their kids! I understand the “quiet contemplation” paradigm of enjoying exhibits, but the example for learning isn’t set when kids aren’t engaged, an example of “museums are quiet places to be quiet” is set. How boring. One dad was really great with his daughter in our new photography exhibit. They were quiet, but he asked her at different points if she wanted to move on, what photos she was enjoying, and pointed out a few of his favorites. This helped teach her not only that museums can be a place for quiet contemplation, but that they are for learning. A teacher engaged me the other day mentioning this exact thing. She didn’t want to engage a child that wasn’t being engaged because she didn’t want to seem weird (this makes me sad), but she saw a missed learning opportunity. Compare this to the reading section, and it’s like night and day. Wow!

5. Museums can be safe places in times of unrest. Two weeks ago, when the government shut down, our museum became free for a day and government workers were free through the rest of the shutdown. A number of federal employees engaged me, thanking me for the opportunity to come to the museum. Our conversations turned from the museum to their positions, and what I saw gave me hope. What we did gave people hope. How wonderful! What a message this sends!

I hope you have a hope-filled week. See you soon!

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