Traditionally, “museums” have not been places where young families feel comfortable creating memories together. With a “Quiet Please” and a “Look, Don’t Touch” attitude at museums, families with young children have typically felt unwelcomed and out of place in a museum environment. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is trying to change that perception with a renewed focus on families and more immersive, engaging activities.
Family Fun Days are one way that we are trying create an ACTIVE experience in our museum. In the past, activities have included relay races, crafts, dancing, and competitions. Children were encouraged to be active, loud, and get messy. We like them to look at our collections in new ways, but also see our museum as a social and cultural center of the area. When thinking about things to do on a Friday afternoon, we want families to start considering the museum.
It can be challenging to try to implement new ideas into a museum atmosphere, especially when we are trying to promote such active learning. We need to take great care that we don’t inadvertently compromise the safety of our amazing collections. So, we ask children not to run, or be too crazy in the galleries, but we also take it upon ourselves as educators to teach them some proper museum etiquette. We just want to help families and other people feel more comfortable in these spaces.
We generally host Family Fun Days six to eight times per year, and we try to pick a variety of themes to keep our audiences coming back. The next one, in honor of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, is January 24, 2014 from 3 to 7 p.m. and is titled Museum Olympics.