According to the Oxford dictionary, a museum is a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited.
Oxford itself has several, and when I was a child, my mother took me to one of them. Which one, I’m not sure, but probably the Ashmolean. I liked it. A lot. It had Roman stuff, Anglo-Saxon stuff, Medieval stuff, and even Ancient Greek and Egyptian stuff. I trotted euphorically from exhibit to exhibit, and at some point wandered off from my mother. Rather than chase all over the place trying to find me, she decided to stay where she was, thinking I would eventually make my way back to her. I did, but where she was happened to be the Egyptian section which, that day, was devoid of other visitors. Being alone amongst the mummies for what she claims was a very long time, is an experience she still talks about. There is such a thing as karma however and, twenty years later, it led me to misplace a kid in the Deutsches Museum in Munich as he, too, trotted euphorically from exhibit to exhibit. Like Mum, I just stayed in one place and let him make his way back to me, but at least I was amongst submarines, and had a great many other people for company.
The point is, the kids in our family love museums. Most kids do, as long as (a) they can pick what they want to see and (b) aren’t required to listen to long, boring lectures about it. If they want to know more, believe me, they’ll ask.
Museums aren’t just places you walk around and look at things anyway. Not anymore. Many museums now have hands-on exhibits and experiences, and even kids who have hitherto shown little interest in things from bygone days can be can be lured into the past by a chance to try on armour or operate a mechanical dinosaur. There are even museums that cater to specific interests. Most small girls enjoy seeing doll collections, and Thomas the Tank Engine fans delight in train museums.
Kids also like open-air museums, where they can explore shops, houses, and other types of buildings to see how people lived in days gone by.
A good museum to start with is your local museum. Unless you live in a large metropolis, it might not run to Grecian urns and medieval manuscripts, but it’s sure to contain something of interest.
For those of you in the U.S.A., Museum Day Live! will be taking place this Saturday, September 28th. This annual event is hosted by the Smithsonian Magazine, which offers free tickets to museums across the country. A Museum Day Live! ticket downloaded from the site below will gain two people entry to a participating museum.
And in November, UK dwellers can get budding curators and tour guides involved in Takeover Day, when museums, galleries, and heritage sites give children and teens a chance to work alongside staff members and learn how museums are run. In Wales, Takeover Day is November 14th, in England, November 22nd, and in Scotland, November 28th. For more information visit: