Thursday, June 21, 2012

In Defense of Museums

by Carmen Doyle
Carmen works at our front desk and has joined our list of "bloggers". 

I recently read an article in which the author claimed that museums are among the top five things that everyone says are fun- but aren’t.
I have to disagree. When I was growing up, I lived not far from Chicago, close enough that my school could take the occasional field trip to the wealth of museums there.  It was a wonderful way to see what we were learning in school without having to be in class and do assignments.
            I’ll admit that when my family first moved to Fort Wayne that I missed all the Chicago museums, until I realized what superb museums this city had to offer.
            The first time I visited the History Center was when my friend Megan came to visit for her 21st birthday. It was definitely a memorable experience. Looking for something to do, we saw a picture of the old jail and decided it would be great fun to get our pictures taken in there. When we saw the dummy in the cell, Megan and I were surprised that the person at the front desk had not heard us scream. (Megan has declared that under no circumstance will she ever go down to that jail again.) However, we did get the photos of each other in the cells, which was what we wanted.
            The jail is the most memorable and the most popular exhibit in the entire museum. Kids on field trips always want to visit there first, especially because of the mannequin. If they don’t jump at him, then their friends will (which is more fun.) It’s also neat to occasionally meet an adult who remembers being here when it was the old City Hall. While the people who admit to having spent time (involuntarily) in there are fun to talk to, more interesting is meeting the retired police officers or relatives of officers who worked here. One gentleman told me of how he built a machine gun for use in Fort Wayne race riots. It’s harder to get closer to history than that.
            Science Central may seem like it’s for children, but adults can have fun as well. It is so hands-on that you don’t always notice you might be learning something. On one of Megan’s visits, we went there. Our favorite part was the sewer crawl. I’m not sure why we thought crawling through a sewer (or a simulation of a sewer) would be fun, but it was. We cheated going through- she used her camera’s flash to illuminate a few feet ahead, and I used my cell phone to keep track of her feet. When my other friend Mandy visited, that was one of the places she wanted to go. We loved the slide that traveled the length of the building, even if we weren’t allowed to try and climb back up the slide like we did on playground slides as a kid.
             The Museum Dream Pass allows me to visit the History Center and Science Central, as well as the Botanical Conservatory, for one price. A benefit of the Museum Dream Membership is the reciprocal admissions to different museums across the country. I have used my membership at the History Center to get in free at the Chicago Historical Society. Among the artifacts on display was a portrait of Rebecca Wells Heald, with the explanation that she was William Wells’ niece. (Unfortunately, there wasn’t an explanation of who William Wells was!) My membership with Science Central allowed me to visit the Field Museum in Chicago for free. Growing up, I had field trips to visit there so it was fun to spend more time at my favorite exhibits.
            The Botanical Conservatory may not technically be a museum, but it is included as part of the Museum Dream Pass. I get a lot of use out of my membership there. When the weather in Fort Wayne gets extreme, I enjoy visiting the Conservatory and seeing calm weather. My favorite garden is the tropical garden.  It’s a lot of fun to go through the hall and see the snow piled at the windows and then see banana trees and waterfalls. (I am always secretly disappointed at the chocolate tree. I keep hoping that it will be a Willy Wonka creation instead of a plant where the seeds have to be fermented and then roasted before they can be eaten.)
             The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is another great museum. The recent exhibition--“WE ARE THE SHIP”-- was spectacular. I saw it on the Trolley Tour and then went back with my Dad. That exhibit was inspiring enough that on a recent visit to relatives in Kansas City, my Dad visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.  The Trolley Tour is a great way to see Fort Wayne art for one price, including some galleries of which I might not have otherwise have seen or heard.
            My love of museums started as a kid- I remember visiting my grandparents in Nebraska and being taken to a local museum to see an exhibit they had on dinosaurs. One summer during an extended family visit, my grandmother persuaded kids and grandkids to go visit a museum that recently opened an hour away dedicated to the Great Platte River Road. Just the Archway Lobby was impressive and to visit with family even more so. That museum had an exhibit about the Lincoln Highway, which is part of Fort Wayne history as well.
            I’ve never been sure why people dislike museums. I always thought that if you didn’t like a museum, then you were missing something. Today, when I visit almost anyplace, I try to find museums in the area to see.

1 comment:

  1. Very Interesting Post. There are too much things to know about museum. Museum shows our culture and History. there are so many things to see in museum.