Monday, June 29, 2009

Hey grown-ups, get some history!

Please Touch Museum recently premiered its Centennial Grown-Up Tours to let the "big kids" in on all of the fun! I sat down with Stacey Swigart, Curator of Collections at Please Touch Museum, to discuss what the news means for adults interested in spending some time at the historical site.

Pinky: Hi Stacey! What made the museum decide to offer "Grown-Up" Tours?

Stacey: Moving to Memorial Hall offered a variety of opportunities for the museum: great new exhibits, wonderful and engaging events, new opportunities for play AND a unique and interesting history from the birth of this building! Memorial Hall is such a gem in our city, being once the home of sculptures, paintings and other works of genius. We didn't want to ignore that history, or its design and functions over the years. We want to share the museum and all its components with everyone-- no matter what their age!

Pinky: What can grown-ups expect to learn while touring the museum?

Stacey: They will learn about the architecture of Memorial Hall, the restoration of the building, toys and icons of Philadelphia area childhood (like the monorail from Wanamaker’s Department Store, the television set of Captain Noah and more!),as well as the amazing history of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. A lot of people don't know that there was once an Olympic-size pool and two jail cells in our building; two of the coolest things to learn during the tours. Another highlight is a stop at the historic and highly detailed c.1889 model of the Centennial fairgrounds!

Pinky: Are the tours guided?

Stacey: We actually offer both guided and self-guided tours! On a guided tour, you will get a variety of insights and history into the building and the opportunity to ask your tour guide any questions you might have about Memorial Hall, both past and present. On a self-guided tour, visitors can take the "Centennial Journey" through the building. They will be equipped with a museum map, and will make use of informational panels along the way, giving them a first-hand look at all of the history associated with this National Historic landmark. We want our visitors to leave having learned a piece of our nation’s past and the remains that still stand tall today!

Pinky: There's so much to do! Are the tours available every day?

Stacey: Guided tours are available Tuesdays through Fridays, and self-guided tours are available daily. We welcome everyone to take an adventure into our yesteryears!

Pinky: Thanks, Stacey! I can’t wait to take the tour!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Are we there yet?!

Summer Travels with Please Touch Museum

Where to this summer? Whether you'll be catching some rays at the Jersey shore, lounging on your back porch, taking in the sights at the Grand Canyon, or traveling abroad, Please Touch Museum's pal wants to come, too!

I recently sat down with Lesly Attarian, Vice President for External Affairs at Please Touch Museum, who told me about the museum's fun new summer program.

Pinky: What is the Summer Travels program all about?

Lesly: Our Summer Travels with Please Touch Museum program gives families a chance to share their summer adventures with us and others. Summer vacations—whether in your own backyard, or abroad—are a wonderful time for families to bond and make lasting memories, so we wanted to give them an opportunity to share their stories and pictures with us. Just like our activities in the museum, the Summer Travels activity is very open-ended and gives children the chance to create and let their imagination run wild! The activity also introduces children to the idea of geography, communication and travel.

Pinky: That sounds like so much fun! So how do you get started?

Lesly: It's easy! Simply print out, decorate and cut out your very own Please Touch pal and snap a few group photos at all of your must-see destinations. When you get home, check back to post your photos and tell us about your trip. You can find the cut-out pal on our website.

Pinky: Are there any other summer activities for families you can share with us?

Lesly: Yes! In fact, we have put together a whole array of fun family summer activities and a book list on travel that parents can access on our website. With a little creativity and planning, a trip anywhere can turn into a fun day and a great way to learn all kinds of lessons along the way. For ways to make your trip fun and exciting check out our downloadable travel play cards.

Pinky: This all sounds like a lot of fun! I can't wait to see all the interesting places people will go. I am going to decorate my Please Touch Museum pal right now!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Artists' Birthdays

Recently I sat down with Mark Dilks, Please Touch Museum's Arts Coordinator, to talk about Artists' Birthdays!

Pinky: Hi Mark, I understand you celebrated some artists’ birthdays on June 13th. What artists’ birthdays did you celebrate?

Jeanne Claude and Christo are an artistic duo; both go by their first names. The two were born on the same day, June 13, 1935. In 1958, Christo met Jeanne Claude in Paris while he was painting portraits of Jeanne Claude’s mother. The two married in 1961 and are still married today.

Pinky: What kind of art do they create?

These artists are best known for wrapping objects, buildings and even landscapes. One example of their large scale artworks is “Surrounded Islands”. Made in 1983, “Surrounded Islands” is the result of 11 islands off the coast of Miami, Florida, being surrounded with 6.5 million square feet of pink woven polypropylene fabric covering the surface of the water.

Pinky: Have I ever seen their work in a museum?

You might have seen an example of these artists’ work in their recent exhibit in New York City. In 2005, the artists installed their Gates project in Central Park. The project placed 7,503 orange colored gates overtop the walkways through the park. As people walked on the walkways they walked through The Gates. A fascinating aspect of these large scale projects is that they fund the work themselves by selling their preliminary sketches and studies.
These artists were not always working on such a large scale. When they first started, they would take everyday objects such as, magazines and motorcycles, among other things, and wrap them up with fabric and string.

Pinky: What did Please Touch Museum do to celebrate their birthdays?

On June 13th, in the museum’s Program Room, we wrapped furniture and foam blocks with fabric and string to honor these two fabulous artists. It was a ton of fun!

Pinky: That sounds cool. Is this something families can do at home if they didn’t make it to the museum that day?

Sure! You can easily do this project at home using bed sheets with yarn, string or ribbon and wrapping up anything from a table to a lamp to a salt shaker. As long as it’s safe for a child any object could work. Another way to do this activity could be in reverse. Wrap an object with fabric and string to conceal its identity and have the child guess what it is that is wrapped up. Have the child handle the object, using all his or her senses to explore it and make a guess about its function.

Pinky: Why did the museum pick this specific art project for the Artist's birthday?

This project encourages children to look at their space in a new way and to see the many ways people can interact with objects and environment. The importance of encouraging and facilitating a child’s active engagement and manipulation of his/ her environment has been successfully explored and writing about in the teachings of the Italian town of *Reggio Emilia.
Families should feel free to go outside and wrap up a bush and watch the breeze and light change the look of the fabric. And as the teachings of Reggio Emilia encourage, don’t forget to document the process by taking photos to show to the children later AND as you are creating.

Pinky: Thanks Mark, sounds like I have some objects, string and fabric to find!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Please Touch Playhouse is excited to add a brand new show to its repertoire! “Getting There” premieres on June 13 and will be on stage through August 8.

I caught up with David Hutchman, Theater Experience Manager, who told me all about this new show.

Pinky: David, what’s “Getting There” about?

David: Getting There is a light hearted, prop, puppet and toy filled retelling of the story of how down through the ages people from all over the world have managed to get from one place to another; from the beginning of time when everyone walked, to the discovery of the wheel to today’s fast cars, planes and train.

Pinky: That sounds so fun!

David: You’re right, Pinky! It’s a fun interactive show about the history of transportation for the child who always wants to know if we’re there yet.

Pinky: How did the idea of the show come about?

David: We wanted to create a theater program around the theme of transportation. Topics like traffic safety, vehicle identification and teaching the history of cars, planes, and all things that “roll, move and run” are introduced to kids in a fun way. Kids will learn lessons like “Look both ways before you cross the street and hold your big person’s hand,” as well as the importance of friendship that ties the plot of “Getting There” together. And then there’s the idea that we don’t always need to go fast, but that we can take time and experience the little things along the way.

Pinky: So it’s all about a healthy balance! How can kids bring this particular show into their own homes after they leave the museum?

David: As with most of Please Touch Playhouse productions, “Getting There” can be reenacted at home with props any child can find in their home; from toy cars and airplanes to stuffed animals. It’s important for parents and guardians to remember that the goal of performance play is not to train your child to be an actor, dancer or musician. Instead, focus on creating an atmosphere for your child to explore the performing arts, so such skills as communication, listening, self-expression and self-confidence can be explored and encouraged. Remember, performance play is a great opportunity for your child to learn and grow while having fun!

Pinky: Thanks, David! I can't wait to see the show! Click here for fun "Getting There" related activities!

We're all about learning through play.

Join Pinky, one of Please Touch Museum's resident puppets, on an inside look into all the fun, educational things happening at Philly's Children's Museum. This blog is not just about what we do at the museum, but about the educational philosophy behind why we do what we do.