Friday, June 12, 2015

museum angst

A couple of weeks ago, we took time to go to a Museum of Nature in our city with our best of friends.
Of all the museums in the city that I have gone to, which is about five, this is my favorite museum due to both content and building aesthetics.
While two of my kids were able to join my friend for the special exhibit, I took Kate in a stroller over to the Bird Gallery. I could spend most of the day there, looking at the displays of birds. Kate let me look at about half of the gallery before she started to get restless and needed a change of scenery.

Here are some of the photos I took of the birds on display.

My photos do not do justice to the outstanding displays full of birds I may never actually see in my lifetime, but whose appearances and habits I can study and ponder.
And do you know what bothered me? (Get ready for some authentic indignation.)

The kids, all ages, who were running around this gallery were not looking at these gorgeous displays because their attention had been stolen by interactive displays, many of them with screens and moving images that they were busy grabbing and groping.
In this busy gallery, none of the kids I saw 'using' these displays seemed to be truly studying the content and discussing it in any meaningful way with any of the other children or adults who accompanied them.
In fact, almost every adult I saw was, either chasing after children who were running from one activity to the next or standing stationary staring at their phone, waiting for their charges to be 'done' messing with the equipment or display.
And this repeated itself over and over as each wave of people groups made their way into and around the gallery. I wondered what would happen to my own children and their friends when they finally wandered in and found the frenetic pace that was being set.
Sure enough, my oldest came zooming into the gallery wanting to tell me what he just saw, rushing with both words and feet to share where they wanted to go next. I urged him to follow me so I could show him some of the birds that we have either seen or discussed.
He followed almost reluctantly and above the din, I tried to encourage his interest. He rallied a bit, but the pull of the busyness of the gallery was hard for me to compete with. I didn't even bother with my youngest who was busy playing with her friend in the pretend bird sanctuary room and the pretend vehicle parked alongside.
And this scene was repeated in every exhibit and gallery we went through. Kids mostly engaged in
interactive screen displays, rushing past live animals, and specimens heading for screens to swipe and buttons to push.

After giving Laura some play time in one exhibit hall, I took her by the hand and we went to find this little turtle swimming around his tank. We talked about him and pointed out things to each other. Then we moved onto the still life diorama displays of river life, talking and pointing out things that we noticed and recognized based on our own backyard experiences of river life.

I'm not usually one of those parents who drones on to my children and expects them to hang onto my every word with riveting attention. But we only visit this museum once every couple of years and it isn't free, so I don't enjoy squandering our time and money by running around and missing the excellent displays. I know that much of the appreciation for the exhibits comes with maturity in the art of caring and I am still training young minds to want to care, so I give a measure of grace but I also lead by example.
I am attentive and interested because I truly am. I don't have to fake it or make myself care because of the time, effort and money spent to get us there. God's creation holds my attention because I love the Creator and am astounded by the works of His hands.
If my children can catch this enthusiasm and store it deep within their souls, no new-fangled, button-pushing, screen-pulsating contraption can take it away. They will appear as they are, silly distractions that we simply have no time or interest for.
We sincerely want to be in contact with the true ideas of Creation.


  1. All I want is a few handfuls of that Isometric-Hexoctahedral carbon and I'll be happy!!

    I'd get stuck in a museum with you (and the 6 kids) any day.

    Love - Kathleen

  2. Interesting. I find that the library is the same. It has a bank of computers with children playing games. It can be very challenging to remove a child from standing behind the gamers and watching, to the real business of a library.

  3. Yes, I can imagine that libraries have caused the same issues.
    In all honesty, I rarely take my children in with me to the library. While the computers do not usually grab their attention, the books that I would prefer not to bring home are often the ones they see and ask for.
    Thanks for reading and commenting.


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