KENOSHA – There are few glimmers of hope in a global pandemic, but local museum staff have found one.
“Because we had to close our doors during the first few days of the pandemic, we took this time to update our field station,” said Nick Wiersum, curator of education for the Public Museum, Civil War Museum and the Dinosaur Discovery Museum.
Wiersum stood inside the field station, on the first floor of the public museum, highlighting the new features.
“It was the same for about 20 years,” he said of the space, used for family programs.
Where it used to be “a static place, with things to look at,” he said, “we opened it up for hands-on art projects and playtime. We had several months to think about it. the best way to use this space.
The field station covers the three areas of interest of the public museum: natural sciences, fine arts and anthropology.
The natural science area features taxidermy animals – “we also had heads on the wall,” Wiersum said with a laugh, “but that scared the kids” – and drawers full of specimens.
“Children are encouraged to open these drawers, touch everything from fossils to seashells to skulls and create their own ‘curiosity booths’,” he said. After creating their own collections, museum visitors can go upstairs to visit the permanent exhibition “From Curiosity to Science”.
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Also on the natural science side of space, there are plenty of stuffed birds – a screech-owl, a goldfinch, a ruffed grouse, a barn owl and a cardinal – and toy animals in the drawers that “allow visitors to compare and contrast the animals “.
Field Station’s fine arts section includes a gallery wall for displaying artwork, as well as colorful blocks to build a mosaic and table for art projects.
The anthropology area contains “the most popular element here, our log cabin trading post,” Wiersum said.
Children can enter the trading post and find items to trade: fur skins, cups, pots, blankets.
“We’re trying to store it with things that people would actually trade in the days of the fur trade,” Wiersum said (so, no Pokémon cards).
Next to the trading post is a long pile carpet “pond” for fishing. And before you leave that area, be sure to lift the lids of the “tree stumps” to find the animal puppets inside.
“People really love the new space,” Wiersum said. “We tried to focus more on imaginative play and less on ‘you have to sit down and learn something’. We are still learning what children like and what they don’t like to do. We are very excited.
Civil War Museum Resource Center
Next door, the Civil War Museum did its own COVID shutdown renovation, opening its second-floor resource center “so families can put these phones down and interact with each other,” said Doug Dammann, the museum education coordinator.
The space – open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday – includes a disguise area stocked with border clothing (including hoop skirts!) And military uniforms. After donning the items, visitors can snap photos against a Civil War-era backdrop painted by local artist Lynn Johnston. If you want one of these old style photos, you can get one for $ 5. Talk to Resource Center staff about this option.
A focal point is the full-size Lincoln log cabin with a ‘campfire’ up front for gathering during story time. Free storytelling hours for ages 4 to 8 focus on “a special hero from the story”. Story time is 11 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month. The next story time is November 20.
The school area has old offices and the reading nooks are A-shaped soldiers’ tents.
The Civil War era games available include Pickup Sticks, Dominoes, and Shut the Box, a classic dice game.
“We invite people to come in, play, try on clothes and have fun,” said Dammann. “This area was more of a library, but now the focus is on interactive play.” (As for research material, don’t worry, the museum still has an archive and will help people with their genealogical research.)
After you ‘dine’ in front of the fireplace, beat your brother in a game, and do your homework in the classroom, don’t leave the area without seeing how you stack up – in height – against Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, and other presidents.
“It’s fun to see families getting involved in this new area,” said Dammann. “The kids want to spend more time here. With the school holidays approaching, we think this is a great option for families.