I realized at a young age that museums are for all ages! It started a long time ago…my love of museums, that is. The magic, the stories, the possibilities, the past, the present, the future, the journey—these simple ideas shaped my imagination as a child, and fostered my respect and love of museums today.
Embracing Museums as a Family—Museums Are for All Ages!
How did it start? Growing up outside of New York City, I spent many a weekend with my family at museums, zoos, and living history villages. The American Museum of Natural History and Metropolitan Museum of Art were particular favorites. I can recall so vividly staring up at reconstructed dinosaur fossils at the American Museum of Natural History. I was mesmerized by the idea of the extinct Dodo bird. If I am being honest, the huge whale that hung suspended from the ceiling terrified me—so much so that I would not step foot into that portion of the museum. Dad and I particularly loved this museum. He would actually spend what seemed like hours upon hours in the reptile hall. These experiences, put together, were visceral. There was emotion in my response to this place. My emotions ranged from awe, to fear, and to discovery. It was amazing looking at the Gila monster display, and imagining the environment in which this huge reptilian creature lived. I yearned to learn more. Every visit to the American Museum of Natural History just sparked my imagination.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art also peaked my curiosity, even as a child. I felt a reverence and quietness while at the museum. I loved visiting the Egyptian area, which led to the Temple of Dendur. My imagination would immediately travel back to a time so long ago. I just loved it!! Mom and I would walk slowly through this area, savoring it, and knowing there was so much more to see. We were, in our own way, connecting to the story. I can also recall visiting Old Bethpage Restoration Village, often feeling like I was a part of their nineteenth century story.
Embracing Museums Today—Museums Are For All Ages!
The STORY. That is still what I yearn to uncover at museums. I want a story that provides an emotional connection to objects. If I am visiting a museum, purely for myself, I want to learn, I want to be surprised, and I want to be part of the story. More and more museums today are telling their stories in a way so different from the museums of my childhood. While I still love these museums of my youth, I also love feeling immersed, challenged, and even being a participant at a museum.
However, many visitors to a museum, including myself, are not there purely for themselves or even have the same motivations. Sometimes I am an aunt guiding my niece around the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Other times, I am contemplative and just want to recharge. Then, there are times I just want to be a part of the experience, or maybe someone has told me to visit a particular museum because it simply is the place to be. Visitors’ and even my own motivations are ever changing. Ultimately, it depends on our role as a visitor.
Each day I visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West as an employee. I am lucky that my job allows me to help immerse and challenge the minds of our nation’s students and teachers. This is my role as a professional. And sometimes it is hard to separate the professional visitor from the recreational visitor I might be on vacation. Yet, I find that I am drawn to subject matters that have always interested me—natural science, art, culture.
This is not surprising given my experiences as a child. Quite frankly, as an adult, I really like to have fun, especially when I am on vacation. Don’t be too surprised if I am the person at the aquarium feeling the stingrays, or the visitor at a museum testing out interactives. After all, this is all part of the STORY and we are all a part of it, no matter our age. Museums Are for All Ages!