Monday, August 8, 2011

Indy's Children's Museum = Amazing!

On Thursday, August 4, the other consultants and I paid a visit to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis—the world’s largest children’s museum.  It was amazing!! The 472,900 square foot museum with five floors of exhibit halls receives more than one million visitors annually.  The museum was founded in 1925 by Mary Stewart Carey with the help of Indianapolis civic leaders and organizers, and it is the fourth oldest such institution in the world.  The museum was amazing—much more tailored to older children and adults than other children’s museums I’ve visited.

On our way there, we had to take Route 31—Meridian Avenue—where there are huge houses and mansions with perfectly manicured lawns that looked like golf course and hugely tall cast iron fencing. It was amazing just to see so many huge houses along the way to the museum.  But right after we hit a stop sign and crossed over a street, it’s like we were in a different world.  We were in what seemed to be (an what probably was, I just don’t know any better) downtown Indianapolis.  We partook in the museum’s free night, which is sponsored by Target.  This occurs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. the first Thursday of every month.  Essentially, we saved a value of $16.50—woot! 

When we walked in, we first saw a rotating exhibit of Bumblebee from Transformers. 

The exhibits were wonderful.  Each made us smile or enlightened us in some way.  Here is a brief tour through our museum experience:
We entered the dinosaur exhibit.  Who doesn’t love dinos? These were really neat because they had life-sized dinosaurs with a backdrop of a purple and blue night sky.  There were little children running around everywhere (which is good! Parents should always take their children to museum free night so said children aren’t deprived of out-of-the-classroom learning), so we didn’t get to read much of the information posted about the exhibits.  They also had a place where children could “conduct” an archeological dig for dinosaur fossils.  What a great hands-on learning tool for those future archeologists! 

Upstairs, the museum had an exhibit highlighting dragons, and the mythical creature’s tie to dinosaurs.  It was interesting, and even though dragons can be a little scary sometimes, it was neat to see. Oh, and this exhibit was referencing Harry Potter!

Then we drastically switched gears.  The next exhibit was Barbie, which I can confidently say we all thoroughly enjoyed.  The first part of the exhibit had displays of Barbie over the decade and asked, “Which was your Barbie?”






It was neat to see generations of such a beloved timeless children’s toy in one place at the same time.  Also in the exhibit, the museum had the different facets of Barbie’s life and how she has grown as a woman over the past 50+ years.

Sports Star
Career Girl
Fashion Mirror and Muse

All Doll’d Up

They even had a little runway where children could pretend to be models (eh, yes—this did make me a little nauseous), but it was a neat setup.  There was even a place for photographers if the children were too shy to work the runway. I think I can safely say the Barbie exhibit was the favorite of the evening, not because we give are submissive to typical girly things (mostly) but more so because we grew up with her and Barbie was often times a little girl’s friend when she had no one else.  Just think, where would the female population be without Barbie’s positive body image encouragement?

The Barbie exhibit was interesting though, because on the far wall, it had interviews and pictures of those folks most involved in the design, production, and progress of the Barbie doll.  They even had some displays recognizing some lady’s grandmother who used to hand sew clothes for her granddaughter’s Barbie doll; this proves how much more than a toy Barbie was to the young girls of many generations.

Here is Barbie, so nicely portrayed by artist Andy Warhol, a Pittsburgh native.

Besides Barbie, many other neat things were happening at the Museum. Like the exhibit, “The Power of Children Making a Difference.”  This exhibit focused on the brave efforts of three children—Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White.  Let me be completely honest, even if that means I will sound uneducated.  Before this trip to the museum, I had no idea who both Ruby Bridges and Ryan White were.  I was completely oblivious to two out of the three children who were brave enough for the Indianapolis Children’s Museum to deem “world-changing.” As ashamed as I am, I’m glad I was able to learn something more about each of them.

The first was Ryan White.  I’m ashamed to admit that before this exhibit, I was completely unaware of who Ryan White was, but I hear he was a popular topic of conversation.  The Kokamo, Indiana native was a national poster child for the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s after he was expelled from his middle school because of his infection.  He became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment and was given six months to live after his diagnosis.  He is admired by many because he was treated differently in schools due to his contraction of HIV yet persevered through it to become one of the country’s best human rights activists.  The museum had on display his childhood bedroom and video testimonial from his friends and family.

Ruby Bridges was a civil rights activist at an early age.  When she was six years of age, Ruby’s parents responded to a call from NAACP and volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans school system.  She is known as the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the south.  On display there was a photo of Ruby walking to school immersed in a crowd of white students, and one young woman in particular was literally screaming at her.  They showed that later on, the woman apologized for her behavior and now the two of them speak against racism across the country.

The last exhibit they had was featuring Anne Frank, the child who was a victim of Hitler’s Holocaust.  The diary she kept gave the public knowledge of what she—and countless others—experienced to avoid being killed by the Nazis.  This one made me very emotional; all I could think about was Schindler’s List and the truth behind the graphic scenes in that movie.  It’s sick to think this all happened—in the timeline of the world and civilization—fairy recently.  In the Anne Frank exhibit, there were things from prisoner uniforms, video adaptations of her story, and many other resources to educate people of the nonsense.  It was interesting to revisit Anne Frank’s story after not hearing it since eighth grade.

One more neat area of the museum was the section devoted to Egypt.  The exhibit had different displays and interactive learning opportunities for anybody of any age.  We learned about how Egyptians retrieve their water, how they write, what a typical home and clothes look like, what music is popular in Egypt, what is the common religion, etc.  Each of these were displayed in a fun and interesting way.  We all enjoyed how this was teaching our youth to be more open-minded to other cultures.

In other areas of the museum were different exhibits geared toward different age groups.  There was a Dora the Explorer area (which we did not explore), preschool area, and a National Geographic Treasures of the Earth exhibit focused more on the more mature crowd.  We didn’t explore much of Treasures of the Earth either because we were hungry, overwhelmed by the massive amount of children running around, and tired adults encroaching on our personal space. 

In the middle of the museum, they have a huge glass piece running from ground to ceiling.  People can walk below the bottom of the piece and see the colorful glass pieces.

What a great children’s museum—it was really delightful! Highly recommended the next time you’re in Indy. And if you choose to go on free night, consider yourself warned.  And for the record, my Barbies defnitiely had the pink convertable. Loved it!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like fun (except for that children part!).

    The Barbies from the 1990s. I had the Rock N Roll Barbie and the Totally Hair Barbie - both pictured. That's great! I might be a feminist, but I still loved and love her.

    Also - the glass art is by Dale Chihuly. (The framed photos in my living room above my TV are actually zoomed in pics of his glass art.) Gorgeous!