The Museum Blog

Category: Exhibits

Ascent or Descent

A Public Art Collaboration

Have you been by the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire recently? There seems to be a group of characters climbing . . . sitting . . . jumping . . . flying? Are they climbing up . . . sideways . . . down? Are they friendly or not so nice? Where did they come from and what are they doing on the front of CMNH?

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Ascent or Descent is a collaborative public art project designed by the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire with six Seacoast area artists and craftspeople. This project is designed to make you curious and wonder what it is, exactly, that's happening with these figures upon our facade and what the different stories may be behind each one. We purposefully kept our description of a 'humanoid sculpture' request very broad when potential contributors were contacted. We wanted to show a diverse group of 'people' created in a variety of styles using a multitude of materials.

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David Masse is a local blacksmith living on the southeastern coast of Maine who used this opportunity to design and construct something different than he would typically.

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Masse decided to create a superhero and shaped it by using forged steel. He then added a fabric cape that blows in the wind. What do you think this superhero's codename is? What are his powers and how did he get them? What if he (or she!) isn't a hero . . . but a villain?!

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You can check out more of David Masse's work on his website.


Rick Burns, a sculptor working based in Berwick, ME, describes his work as "creating Industrial Symbolic Abstractions using metal, wood, clay and mixed media".

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If you look closely at his sculpture, you can discover some hidden objects! Do you see the wrenches that make up the arms between the elbow and the wrist?

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What about the gears inside the chest? Do the gears help this character move? Does he have to be wound up like a toy? And, of course, you can't possibly miss the incredibly cool medieval helmet with pieces of chain mail. This "humanoid sculpture" is ready for anything!

You can find more creative works of art from Rick Burns at his website.


Adam Pearson is a New Hampshire based sculptor and craftsman. His child-sized figure is jumping . . . or is he flying . . . off the roof of the Children's Museum! Is this the first time he's opened up his wings and flown? Is he looking for food . . . or is he playing a game? Is he headed towards the park . . . or higher into the trees?

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This sculpture, the highest piece in the installation, was created by Pearson cutting, bending and welding the metal and steel of the green body and the large red tail and swooping wingspan.

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More of Adam Pearson's work can be found on his website.


Chris Wright is a local artist and Director at the Port City Makerspace. For Ascent or Descent, Wright designed and created a piece that is fashioned almost entirely from aluminum. This includes the frame, bones, ribs, head, and extremities!

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Wright fabricated every piece of the sculpture, including all the individual vertebrae in the articulated spine.

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There was a time not too long ago that Nate Walker's Giant Blue Crab sculpture was one of the only pieces of public art in the city of Dover. Now, Wright's piece joins five other pieces of public art looking down at art in several places in Henry Law Park!


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Like Chris Wright, Jeff Gunn is also a Director at the Port City Makerspace and a local craftsman. Gunn began with aluminum to create the general form of the body for this robot . . . or is it astronaut . . . or is it robot astronaut?

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He then heated and bent PVC boards to create the white outer shell around the aluminum. To design and produce the hands and other smaller parts for this piece, Gunn used some newer technology: a 3D printer!

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One of the coolest features of this piece is one that can't be seen from the ground - but its effect can! On the top of right shoulder, Gunn installed a solar panel. The panel is connected to the "eye" bulb of the robot figure. So after a long day of bright sunshine, a cyclopean beam of light emerges as dusk falls. Is he guarding the museum . . . or is he guarding the park? Is he taking a picture with his eye . . . or shooting lasers?


Kali Ann Rocheleau is an artist who enjoys exploring many different mediums, including charcoal, watercolor, sculpture, and cartooning. She lives in Portsmouth with her fiancée and loves to create art whenever she can.

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Rocheleau chose to make sculpture with a more whimsical, pencil-sketch like quality. She created this sculpture using bent and twisted pieces wire. One of the coolest part's of this central piece of the installation is that depending on where you're viewing it from, it seems to change shape. From one angle it appears to be a woman, but from another - a man. From the outside you can see its hands and fingers in great detail, while the feet and toes are better viewed from inside. This piece also blends in with the building almost perfectly. Is it because the figure has the ability to turn invisible? Is she made up of water . . . or is it air?

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More of Kali Ann Rocheleau's art can be found on her Facebook page.


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The amazing . . . or is it magical . . . or is it scientific . . . or is it fantastical figures that make up Ascent or Descent will be visiting the museum and Henry Law Park from June to the end of October 2015. For those interested in previous public art projects by the Children's Museum of New Hampshire, check out our look at Bryan Rutland's abstract art piece that adorned our building through this last winter and spring or at the journey of how artist Nate Walker and the Dover Middle School Art Club designed, created and installed the Octopus Bike Rack in front of CMNH.

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Bringing Public Art to Henry Law Park

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Bryan Rutland, a local Dover artist, has created a new piece being displayed on the facade of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. Perspection, part of Driven to Abstraction - the current Gallery 6 installation – was originally one piece of abstract art that Rutland split into two distinctive pieces. As CMNH’s Director of Exhibits, I contacted him in November about creating a vibrant piece of abstract art that would bring color to Henry Law Park for those dark and dreary winter months.

“The way that I like to approach my painting is to have no preconception or final image in my mind,” Rutland shares.

“I want to create intuitively and I feel in working this way I can be true to myself and not over think the process. I like to take a more natural approach,” he admits. “I start the creation process with a color palette in mind and just start throwing colors around and whatever ‘feels right’ at the time. I like to just let the painting work itself out and lead me in the direction it wants to go in.”

Bryan joins over 15 other artists in showing their version of abstract art. For many museum families and visitors, this is their first exposure to any kind of abstract art. As in any form of art, each artist approaches their process differently. Rutland looks to his natural surroundings for inspiration.

The abstract process for me is more of a therapeutic and physical exercise. I allow things to just happen the way they do in nature,” he says.

“Just like a stream will meander and create its own path over time I allow my paintings to do the same. I tend to be more of an instrument in the creation of the work as opposed to the overall creator. I really feel the painting is already there I just need to let go and let it be what it was meant to be. I think we need to create things that are true and honest to ourselves, with all of our strengths and weaknesses.”

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Born in Paterson, NJ in 1974, Rutland has always believed in doing what you love. He moved around a lot in his early years and he often looked towards his creative mind to keep him company. He tried to absorb any and all information he could sink his teeth, and by extension his creativity, into. He is a true admirer of art in all its forms and has worked in many different mediums.

He has designed for fashion labels like L.A. based Eisbar and Kangol NYC. He has also worked with L.A. bands The Nikhil Kohrula Band, The Distants and Apes of the New Millennium, as well as NYC based rap artist Little Vic and Orena Records. Rutland’s paintings have been exhibited in galleries and venues in Los Angeles, and he has had mural work shown on walls and ceilings in New York City. Bryan currently operates Rutland Studios in downtown Dover creating artwork in all different mediums.

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If you don’t have a chance to view Rutland’s Perspection by day, we’ve set up a colored lighting system to make it viewable in the evening as well.

Driven to Abstraction is currently up and running through the end of February. Driven to Abstraction has given the museum a chance to show some non-representational work that children and adults will find really interesting. Abstract art challenges people to look even deeper at the artwork to try and solve or decode the puzzles in the artwork.

abstractionIn abstract art, there are no wrong answers because it’s all about the unique things each person sees, feels, and thinks about each piece.

All CMNH Gallery 6 shows are free to view for Adults. Simply request a Gallery 6 Visitor Pass at the Front Desk of the museum.

Perspection is merely the latest piece of public art commissioned by CMNH. Last winter, we installed Erebos on the front of our building, which was a collaborative effort between myself and our Gallery 6 Coordinator Tess Feltes.

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During the day, Erebos – named for the Greek God of Darkness and Shadow – would create shadows on the building as the sun moved across the sky, and at night Erebos was lit up by color changing LED lights to create an ever-changing display of light and shadows.

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In the spring, we installed a recycled hanging garden created by cutting, gluing and painting plastic bottles.

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This was our most time consuming project because each flower or vine was individually cut and painted. Amy Tilton and Eryn True, two of our 2014 exhibit interns, were invaluable in helping us to complete this project.

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During the summer, our Gallery 6 Enchanting Gardens exhibit extended out into Henry Law Park and included a handful of sculptures sprinkled throughout the park.

There were nests, figurative sculptures, a tree house, a metal Pterosaur and individual pieces made of both plants and clothing.

Hammer Headed Pterosaurus, Jill NooneyHow Do You Spell Your Name? - Sarah HaskellHow Do You Spell Your Name? – Sarah Haskell

We hope you’ll have a chance to see our latest public art, Bryan Rutland’s Perspection, in person before visiting the rest of Gallery 6 to fully appreciate all the incredible and varied pieces of abstract art in our Driven to Abstraction installation.

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Six on the Sixth

We hope everyone is having a wonderful summer! July is a very special month in the history of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. It’s always been a month of beginnings and, because of that, cherished anniversaries.

In July of 1983, the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth opened its doors at 280 Marcy Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the old South Meeting House.

Children eagerly cut the ribbon(s) to open the Children's Museum of PortsmouthChildren eagerly cut the ribbon(s) to open the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth

Twenty-five years later on July 23, 2008, CMOP transformed into CMNH, as the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire opened its doors in an old Armory Building – and former Butterfield Gym – in Henry Law Park at 6 Washington Street in Dover, New Hampshire.

The colorful ribbons come out again for a brand new chapter!The colorful ribbons come out again for a brand new chapter!

To celebrate six years of being CMNH, our move to Dover, and becoming an even bigger, vital part of the New Hampshire community, we’ve interviewed six staff members who were part of the process of moving, designing, creating and launching the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire.

Help us dive into the future! Our fundraising effort for the next phase of the famous Yellow Submarine is in full swing!

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A Silly Scavenger Hunt

Tuesday was April Fools’ Day. While this whimsical “holiday” can be celebrated anywhere, a children’s museum is perfectly suited for foolish fun!

First, Educators Crystal and Meredith decided to fashion a Giant Yellow Mustache for our friend the Giant Blue Crab!

These three jokers,These three jokers, “mustache you a question”!

 

Our horse friend C.J. from the Dover Mounted Patrol even joined in on the fun!

Even police horses join in on April Fools' tomfoolery!Even police horses join in on April Fools’ tomfoolery!

Our exhibits even got in on the act!

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And that’s when we unveiled our V̶e̶r̶y̶ ̶S̶i̶l̶l̶y̶ Extremely Serious Scavenger Hunt!

The Granite State is very proud of these wild animals that are native to our state! Our visitors – big & small – had quite a lot of fun hunting down all the wild subjects!

We were also kind enough to share some AMAZING TRUE FACTS with our visitors about the First Day of April!

Shhhh! Kanagaroo is learning how to stay calm in Mindball!Shhhh! Kanagaroo is learning how to stay calm in Mindball!Ah, yes - a royal rhino inside Pattern Palace.Ah, yes – a royal rhino inside Pattern Palace.Dodo Bird takes this high perch in our Mexican Cafe.Dodo Bird takes this high perch in our Mexican Cafe.Snow Leopards and Submarines are a perfect mix.Snow Leopards and Submarines are a perfect mix.Abraham Lincoln was hoping to relax inside this cozy tree.Abraham Lincoln was hoping to relax inside this cozy tree.Chameleon learned all about Air Mail in our Post Office.Chameleon learned all about Air Mail in our Post Office.Just your normal everyday hammerhead shark checking out the Dino Detective exhibit.Just your normal everyday hammerhead shark checking out the Dino Detective exhibit.Toucans love the vehicle construction in Thinkering Lab.Toucans love the vehicle construction in Thinkering Lab.Armadillo was curious about the River Model.Armadillo was curious about the River Model.Ring Tailed Lemur was curious about the children who used to work in the mills.Ring Tailed Lemur was curious about the children who used to work in the mills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon was hanging out at the top of our Cocheco River Map!Dragon was hanging out at the top of our Cocheco River Map!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MOSAIC: Our Multicultural Neighborhood

A new exhibit at the Children’s Museum of NH

Guest blog by Tess Feltes, Gallery 6 Coordinator

I love my job as curator of Gallery 6 and shamelessly confess that every show is my “favorite” show. But I felt compelled to write about the MOSAIC exhibit because this show touched a very special chord which, I believe, will have repercussions in my life and hopefully in the lives of some of the unbelievable people I have met.

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It is well known that children in our world, now more than ever, are living in a diverse society, even in places where there was once a fairly homogeneous population. We truly live in a cultural mosaic right here in New Hampshire. This fact was driven home to me as I reached out to members of our multicultural community to participate in an exhibit called MOSAIC: Exploring our Multicultural Neighborhood.

The diversity I found has been astonishing and the outpouring of generosity, warmth and enthusiasm of people has been incredible! I feel I have made wonderful new connections … and, most importantly, friends!

Families from The Azores, Belarus, China, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco and Rwanda have shared photographs, stories, traditions, art, music and customs that interest children everywhere. The list of nationalities here in New Hampshire could go on … it was hard to limit it to the wall space that we have.

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The exhibit shows how people of these cultures live, eat, dress, learn, play and engage with each other. The most heartening aspect of the project was the reinforcement that people are all amazingly similar, despite regional or cultural differences.

Immigrants arriving in the United States tend to share at least two experiences: they look forward –  trying to become American – and they look back, trying to maintain some traditions from their homeland. Each individual brings his/her own unique personal, meaningful cultural background and their own way of dealing with the unending demands of life. We all need to cultivate an attitude of respect, acceptance and inclusion in order to break down the barrier of our “shyness” or reticence in approaching individuals that seem different.

Mosaic_Mexico2I wanted to avoid a tourist approach of presenting culture through celebrations and food only. Instead, I wanted to share personal stories, achievements and comparisons in familiar and recognizable aspects of children’s lives – showing how people of diverse cultures live, eat, dress, learn, play and engage with each other. What does a school, a playground, a park or museum look like in another country? How is it the same? How is it different?

Throughout the project I kept in mind the words of Kenyan storyteller Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story that becomes the only story.”

Mosaic_ChinaThis rings true. I began interviewing people with a preconceived idea about each country, perhaps formed by the media, whether National Geographic magazine or headlines in the news. Over and over again, my preconceived notions were wrong. The stories that were shared were far richer and diverse than I could have imagined.

For me, this project has underlined the truth that stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories can empower, humanize and help foster feelings of community, celebrating different cultures and their contributions in order to position each other as friends rather than strangers.

I hope that visitors to the Children’s Museum of NH will take the time to explore Gallery 6 to learn and appreciate the cultures presented there. I hope they will share their own stories with family and friends, make new friends and make a small difference in how we appreciate each other as we all face the challenges everyday living.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also want to mention the fascinating artwork by Portland, Maine artist Jeannie Dunnigan. It is titled BAJ and features just the eyes of a child created using recycled print material. This seemed to encapsulate the idea that we all make up a part of the whole and reminds us that the eyes of our children are on us.

It is my hope the artwork of the MOSAIC project promotes deeper understanding of ourselves, our culture and our place in the world by exploring what brings people together rather than what keeps us apart.

The MOSAIC exhibit is on display at the Children’s Museum of NH through May 27, 2013.

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Meet the CMNH Experience Guides: Sarah

It’s time to meet another member of the Experience Guide Staff at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire!

Sarah is at CMNH the majority of the week and can usually be found hip deep in arts and crafts supplies in the Muse Studio.  You may have even heard Sarah’s voice while you were shopping for a pair of jeans.  Yes, you read that right!  Sarah has a lot to say so let’s jump right in and find out more!

Sarah welcomes you to the Muse Studio!

Zach:  Sarah, how long have you worked at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire?

Sarah:  I’ve been at the museum since October – so about 11 months!

Z:  Why CMNH?

S:  I’ve always loved working with kids and when I saw that CMNH was hiring I thought it would be a great opportunity to do different activities and exploration with families each day.  I loved that each day would be a new and different experience!  The other part of that daily surprise is the fact that I get to teach each day.  Interactive teaching with the visitors is the highlight of my job.

Z:  What originally brought you to New Hampshire?

S:  I came to Dover because I was accepted in to the Masters of Fine Arts program at UNH in Durham.  My focus is Creative Writing – specifically Poetry.

Z:  Where did you complete your undergrad studies?

S:  I attended Columbia University in New York City.  My focus in undergrad was Creative Writing but I also spent much of my time at Columbia attending and participating in musical performances.  I’ve been studying voice since I was six-years old so I definitely enjoyed working with classical music and opera at Columbia.

Z:  Wow!  You may likely be our only Experience Guide with an opera background!  Tell me, what – if any – experience did you have working with families before your time here at CMNH?

S:  For many, many years, I taught at a musical theater summer camp in my hometown of Allentown, New Jersey.

The Charm of the Highway StripThis Way to Allentown!

Z:  That sounds like a lot of fun!

S:  Yes!  “Musical Theater Magical Camp” was a very enjoyable place to work!

Z:  Wow!  With a name like that it sounds even more fun!

S:  It really was a lot of fun.  Each session ran for 3 weeks and was open to children from 5-12 years old.  We would spend Week One getting to know each other, learning about theater, playing games and becoming comfortable with being on stage.  We would cast a full musical in Week Two and then teach them choreography, design and make the costumes, and create the set.  Then, after rehearsing throughout Week Three, we would put on a performance on the last day for the entire camp and all of the returning families.

Avast ye, matey!Curtains up on the, “Pirates: The Musical” set, circa 2009

Z:  Did any of the children ever experience stage fright?

S:  Oh, yes!  We would often get parents who would sign their children up for our camp in an attempt to kind of bring them out of their shell.  These are the children that would be quite shy at the start of camp; often they would be the younger campers.  Which made it such a wonderful process that at the end of three weeks we’d be able to see these kids that had entered the process unsure of themselves and their abilities come out on stage and blow us away with their confidence!

Z:  I’m currently working on a production myself this summer outside of CMNH and I’m having some trouble with a few of the actors hitting their spots and remembering their lines.  Can I recruit you to come and fill them full of your trademark confidence??

S:  Well, I’m pretty busy at the museum this summer but we’ll see what I can do!

Z:  Sarah, switching gears a bit, I’d like to know if you or your family visited museums when you were growing up?

S:  We did.  We went to a ton of museums as a family.  My father is a software developer and he has worked on a number of projects and exhibits for museums.  He and his brothers did most of hardware and software for the Sony Wonder Museum in New York when it first opened.

Z:  “New York” meaning New York City?

S:  Yes!  Right on Madison Avenue!  I was able to explore the museum before they officially opened to the public while my father worked on different projects and exhibits.

Z:  How old were you?

S:  About 6 or 7.

Z:  I’m jealous.

S:  [Laughs.]  You should be!  My dad has worked with a number of museums since then and I actually got to do some voice-over work on one of his projects.

Z:  I’m somehow even more jealous now.  What was the voice work?

S:  It was an exhibit for the Children’s Museum of Houston that was also getting installed at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey.  It was a Magic School Bus weather-based exhibit.  I provided the voices for two of the children in the Magic School Bus.

Magic School BusAll Aboard the Magic School Bus!

Z:  Wow!

S:  He also worked for the Levi’s flagship store in Union Square in San Francisco – so for a long time, I was the voice of many of their in-store kiosks.

Z:  Did you actually get to travel to San Francisco?

Sarah = Kiosk Voice!Sarah’s voice will help you buy your next pair of jeans!

S:  I did!  The whole family spent the summer in San Francisco.

Z:  And how old were you then?

S:  I was 12 years old and it was wonderful to be there for the whole summer.  We really got to know the city.

Z:  I have to ask – did you visit any museums?

S:  We did.  We went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  It . . . well . . .

Z:  Yes?

S:  It was actually . . . an interesting experience.

Z:  I’m going to need you to tell me more than that!

S:  Yes.  Well.  They had a number of installations that were very advanced and were . . . well, perhaps a little over my 12-year old head.

Z:  I see.  Well, Sarah, please tell us:  What is your favorite museum in the world?

S:  That’s a really tough question to answer.  I very much love the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.  I visited it constantly while at Columbia.  But . . . I’d have to say that the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ will always hold a special place in my heart.  When my father was working on the Magic School Bus exhibit, my friend and I were allowed to be at the museum before and after hours and we were given free access to all of the IMAX shows.  Most importantly, we were allowed to wear V.I.P. necklaces. [Laughs.]

Z:  I always knew you were a V.I.P.!  Sarah, what is your favorite exhibit at CMNH and why?

S:  My favorite exhibit is probably the Muse Studio.  I love the way we’ve been able to mix artistic creativity with scientific exploration.  You’ll see families and staff drawing, painting and collaging conjoined with learning how a prism works and how a lima bean plant grows.  It’s definitely the part of the museum that, as a child, you would have had difficulty getting me to leave.

Z:  Even as an adult we have a hard time getting you out of the Muse Studio!

S:  This is true.  [Laughs.]

Essential Information about Experience Guide Sarah

Favorite Color:  Green (Most shades of green, but not Turquoise!)

Favorite Animal:  Dachshund

Favorite Movie:  Contact

Favorite Type of Music:  Classical  /  Favorite Artist:  Elvis Costello

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Art Beyond Vision

Guest Blog by Tess Feltes, Gallery 6 Coordinator at the Children’s Museum of NH

When the New Hampshire Association for the Blind approached me with the idea of an exhibit in the Museum’s Gallery 6 focusing on artwork enjoyed by persons with low vision or who are non-sighted, my first response was one of confusion!

How could this be done?

It took a shift from a traditional way of thinking to a broader definition of art. First, I had to embrace the concept that art belongs to everyone, not just the sighted and that there are many ways a person can have an aesthetic experience.

Art conveys ideas, emotion and beauty. We have to have art to live the full human experience. Art teaches us that not all problems have a single, correct answer. Art broadens our perceptions.

There is not one single answer or way of perceiving a work of art. Sometimes it is better NOT to have a specific goal, but to experiment and engage in the act of DISCOVERY.

Operating on these ideas, the initial idea was to develop an exhibit that visitors could TOUCH.

The next step was to contact a pool of creative thinkers. A call for art was issued to the talented members of the New Hampshire Art Association and other artists in the community. The response was intriguing!

From soft felted textiles, gleaming stainless steel wall sculptures and textural abstract paintings to three-dimensional collages, whimsical sculpture and assemblage, the walls of Gallery 6 offers visitors a myriad of tactile and imaginative pieces that give form to the unseen worlds of ideas and dreams.

Even as the exhibit was being installed, I watched children slow down not only to LOOK but also to TOUCH the work. I made a delightful discovery: this is an important way of engaging children and enhancing their enjoyment.

There are so many different approaches to the tactile art, it is hard to single out any particular pieces. Each piece seems to speak to each visitor differently and in a very personal way.

Gallery 6 has a way of wanting to burst beyond the walls and expand throughout the Museum. Because we want to offer visitors an opportunity to create their own tactile works and to explore for themselves the world beyond vision, there are specially designed activities in the Museum’s Muse Studio.

A section of the exhibit honors a truly inspirational pioneer, Helen Keller, who changed the public’s perception of people with disabilities. Born in 1880, she became known around the world as a symbol of the strength of the human spirit, yet she was much more than a symbol. She was a woman of intelligence, ambition, and great accomplishment, who devoted her life to helping others.

Her life story illustrates this truth:  physical limitations may be restricting, but a person’s true value comes from the depth of her mind

Finally we asked ourselves: How would technological advances available today change Helen Keller’s enjoyment of art? We sought out Marty Quinn – a most creative and innovative fellow to add MUSIC to the aesthetic experience…. and in the process he enhanced the kinesthetic experience as well!

Marty’s MoveMusic technology is featured during Art Beyond Vision as part of the popular Build It. Fly It. exhibit. Visitors are able to hear the paths of falling objects as music. Using visual to image sonification technology developed as part of NASA grants, visual surveillance software tracks the moving objects as they are selecting pixels on a computer screen.

Sound intriguing? Come to the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire between now and Memorial Day and experience the world of Art Beyond Vision for yourself!

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Our Evolving Kid’s World Cafe

The idea for the first Kid’s Café came about in 1995 at the Children’s Museum in Portsmouth in a tiny alcove under the stairs. What began as a simple table-top kit with food items to sort utilizing the food pyramid quickly turned into a full-blown exhibit highlighting other cultures from around the world.

I remember, as a floor staff member, watching the children play with the food and having them request more items to role-play with. We quickly added plates, napkins and utensils and watched a whole new exhibit come to life.

With the increasing popularity of the mini Café and a desire to bring more cultural activities to our space, the Café soon moved to the 3rd floor of the Portsmouth museum and became a more substantial exhibit called the Kid’s World Café. There we offered food from Japan, Canada, Germany, Turkey and Mexico.

When the Museum relocated to Dover, as an exhibit team, we knew that we wanted to bring the idea of the Kid’s World Café with us. With increasing emphasis on global societies and understanding and appreciating world cultures, our exhibit team created an area called One World that encompassed several exhibits, including the Kid’s World Café. One World includes interactive components that offer educational opportunities for families to learn about masks, clothing, footwear and food from seven cultures of the world. In the summer of 2008, we opened the new museum and the Kid’s World Café introduced visitors to the Greek culture.

In September of 2011, wanting to bring updated changes to this popular exhibit, the Kid’s World Cafe changed cultures from Greece to Mexico!

As an exhibit developer and museum educator I am often perplexed and surprised by what makes an exhibit so enticing to our young visitors. After creating exhibits for over 20 years, I have learned that using familiar components and every day objects, in this case items found in a kitchen or restaurant, offers children the opportunity to role play in a setting where they know what is expected of them. Children are often more open to learning about a new topics when they can draw upon prior knowledge and familiar topics to do so.

With the change of a new culture this year, brought new additions to the space. An interactive “Innovation Station” sharing board which offers visitors an opportunity to share recipes and traditions from their cultures with other museum visitors. The sharing board has recipes to take and enjoy making at home, and also invites families to leave their own favorite traditions for others to try.

So far, we have had visitors leave several family favorite recipes including “The Best Guacamole” and “Quiche in a Cup” that we will begin adding to our website for visitors to download and make at home.

The Kid’s World Café exhibit encourages children to use their imagination while interacting with other children and adults in that space. Learning and sharing information together is a winning combination and one we encourage throughout the museum. It is our hope that by experiencing and learning about other cultures, children will have a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures around the world.

You can’t go past the Kid’s World Cafe without hearing “Would you like extra cheese with your taco?” or even hearing specific words from the Mexican menu like “Guacamole” “Agua” or “Burritos”.  The museum’s exhibit team plans on changing cultures in the Café every few years so be on the look out to experience a new culture in the coming years. Until then … Bienvenidos a Cafeteria de Ninos!

Care to share?

If you’d like to download our young friend Kimberly’s recipe for Tostadas (she’s the girl shown here making tortillas with her abuela from Mexico), click here. And if you have a Mexican recipe that your family enjoys, please feel free to share it here in the Comments section! We are always looking for new recipes to share with our members and friends.

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