‘Stories from the Kitchen Sink’ Installation Challenges Conventions

Stories from the Kitchen Sink: Comic Multimedia Installation Examines American Domesticity

Submitted Image: Dog Dreams, 2006/2012. Ricky Bernstein, glass and mixed mediaFrom now through Sunday, June 21, 2015, the Community Gallery at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, MA, will host a special, site-specific installation by Sheffield, Massachusetts-based artist Ricky Bernstein.  The installation, titled Stories from the Kitchen Sink: Bob and Phyllis Learn New Tricks, contains oversized collage-style graphics that depict stereotypically-American domestic scenes.  These “still life sit-com” images are both humorous and critical, drawing attention to past and present ideas about modern life, multi-tasking, and gender roles.

Younger viewers will be particularly interested in these energetic, colorful, stylized representations of American families, and students interested in Pop Art and contemporary art will be able to draw connections between Bernstein and other artists who used graphic, comic imagery, while parents and adults will appreciate the gently satirical sentiments and questions that Bernstein’s installation poses. Read the rest of this entry »

Springfield Museums’ New Exhibit Snapshots The Emergence of the 20th Century American Individual

Springfield Museums Explore Modern American Masterworks
Friday, June 6, through Sunday, August 31, 2014

Students and enthusiasts of art, art history, and American history will be interested to know that among the works on display in American Moderns are representations of Cubism, Synchromism, Precisionism, Expressionism, and Social Realism, as well as interpretations of folk art and early steam-punk style.

Beginning in June, the Springfield Museums’ Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts will play host to a special traveling exhibition curated by and containing key pieces from the Brooklyn Museum in New York. American Moderns, 1910-1960: From O’Keeffe to Rockwell features over fifty paintings and several sculptures by well-known American artists whose works illustrate the multiple schools of thought and representational techniques that developed during the Modern period: Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Joseph Stella, Marsden Hartley, Elie Nadelman, Rockwell Kent, and more. While the works in this exhibition are on loan from the Brooklyn Museum, their presence at the Springfield Museums is a good reminder of the masterworks by these artists and their contemporaries that belong to the Springfield Museums’ own collection.

Though the works by these artists may not seem to have much in common with one another at first glance, they each signify a reaction to a society undergoing rapid and dramatic change. The fifty years covered by the exhibition saw two world wars, the success of the women’s suffrage movement, the short-lived Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and the birth of other youth and activist movements; while new technologies for travel, entertainment, communication, and household efficiency became commonplace over increasingly shorter intervals of time. The world felt smaller, and the United States had established itself as an international power, but not every U.S. citizen had achieved the American Dream.

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Art + History + Technology = Steampunk Springfield!

Unique Subculture Links
Visual Art and Design with Industrial History
March 22 – September 28, 2014

In conjunction with several other local institutions, this spring the Springfield Museums will be hosting, “Steampunk Springfield: Reinventing an Industrial City.” This series of exhibits and events explores the cross-disciplinary subculture and literary genre known as “Steampunk.”

What is Steampunk? Steampunk is expressed primarily through fashion, two- and three-dimensional art, and fantasy writing, with an emphasis on science fiction, historical fiction, and horror stories a la Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells. Steampunk is a genre of alternate history, in which historical events, people, and places are reimagined, frequently in post-apocalyptic scenarios or the American “Wild” West, as well as in the Victorian era. Steampunk seeks to answer the question: “What would the world be like if the steam-powered mechanical technology of the Victorian era was incorporated into current technology and all other aspects of human life today?” The Springfield Museums’ response to this question, as presented by guest curator and well-known Steampunk artist, Bruce Rosenbaum, is a truly unique contribution to the genre.

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For the past few months, Rosenbaum – dubbed the “Evangelist of Steampunk” by Wired Magazine – has collaborated with members of the Springfield Museums’ curatorial staff to reinterpret the Victorian-era items in both the art museum and the history museum through the lens of Steampunk iconography and mythology.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rainforest Adventure in Western MA

Rainforest Adventure in Western MA
Springfield Museums: Jan 25-May 11, 2014

Rainforest Adventure is a multi-sensory exploration of one of our planet’s most precious resources. Through a variety of interactive experiences and hands on displays, visitors will learn about the amazing diversity of life in rainforests and the many challenges they face today. Using vests, flashlights, and binoculars provided, young visitors can explore a gorilla nest, climb a kapok tree, and identify endangered species they find along the way. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Rainforest Adventure is that it is designed for both children and adults, allowing families to share in the enjoyment of learning together.

Craving an outdoor adventure that doesn’t involve icicles, snow banks, and layers of cold weather gear? If you can’t flee to a warmer corner of the globe anytime soon, enjoy an indoor version of such an adventure at the Springfield Museums! From January 25th through May 11th, 2014, the museums will be home to an exciting new exhibit – Rainforest Adventure.

True to its name, the exhibit brings real excitement to the museums and offers families a rainforest adventure without the travel. While exploring a gorilla nest or climbing a kapok tree, families will be able to learn about the amazing species diversity found in our planet’s rainforest and will work to identify endangered rainforest species. Backpacks, flashlights, and special adventure vests will be provided for intrepid explorers to use while adventuring on a multisensory expedition through the exhibit, and kids and adults alike will enjoy the experience and the useful information gained by visiting… Read the rest of this entry »

Springfield Museums Showcase of Antique Toys, Just in Time for the Holidays

Peek Inside Santa’s Sack at the Springfield Museums
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 through Sunday, January 5, 2014

For a fun challenge at the exhibition, discuss with your children the production methods used for cast-iron toys, and see if you can spot the hammered steel pins connecting the left and right halves of the toys! This can serve as both a history lesson and a lesson in engineering and fabrication.

The Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Museums ushers in the holiday season with a showcase of vintage cast iron toys.  The exhibition, titled “A Peek Inside Santa’s Sack,” features rare cast iron collectibles such as fire trucks, horse-drawn carriages and emergency vehicles, airplanes, toy trains and miniature wood and coal stoves – predecessors to the classic HESS trucks of the past fifty years – and tells the story of the three most popular toy-makers of the period.

 Cast-iron toys were common between the 1870s and the 1940s because the molds in which they were made could be reused thousands of times, making the mass production of these metal toys an efficient and profitable endeavor…

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The Magic of Gingerbread: A Call for Gingerbread House Designs

The Magic of Gingerbread Competition

The Springfield Museums are pleased to announce The Magic of Gingerbread, this year’s annual gingerbread house exhibition and competition. They are inviting families and schools to submit design plans for imaginative gingerbread houses up until November 15, 2013. (Houses must be delivered by November 25.)

What does your fantasy fairy tale castle look like?  Are there turrets?  A moat?  Maybe a drawbridge?  Now, what if it was made not out of stone, but of gingerbread, icing & candy? – Gingerbread houses are a great way to engage in creative-free play with your family, and the Springfield Museums is inviting community members of all ages to be a part of their holiday exhibit, “Gingerbread Fairy Tales.” All entries will be displayed in the museum alongside fairy tale backdrops and holiday trees beginning in mid-November. 

The Springfield Museums are inviting bakeries, schools, individual bakers and young people to submit design plans to create gingerbread houses that will be on view at the Springfield Science Museum as part of the holiday exhibit, “The Magic of Gingerbread.” Entries (due by November 9th) can be created by school classes, businesses, youth groups, etc. – or your family can create one of their own! Participation in the gingerbread contest offers youth a fun and creative way to experiment with architecture and design, as well as kitchen skills & creative-free play! Families with kids of all ages can design an entry together – using careful planning to perfect designs for each wall, window, and courtyard – and can easily incorporate math, problem solving, food science, etc.  It’s also an excellent opportunity to discover and talk about the archetypes present in fairy tales…

Read the rest of this entry »

Museums Trace Jewish Community’s Rise “From Shtetl to Suburb”

“From Shtetl to Suburb: One Hundred Years of Jewish Life in the Valley”
Illustrates Jewish Experience in the Pioneer Valley at the Springfield Museums
Through March 2nd, 2014

“The story of Jewish immigrants and their work to develop a thriving community over the last century is a fascinating tale of courage, hard work, and perseverance,” states Guy McLain, Director of the Wood Museum of Springfield History. “Their story is unique, but also emblematic of the challenges faced by so many immigrant groups throughout America’s history.”

The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, in conjunction with several noted local organizations and guest curator Dr. Stuart Anfang, invites you to learn about the history of the Jewish community in Western Massachusetts from the late 19th century through the present.  By combining artifacts, photos, film, and personal histories, the exhibition offers multidimensional insights into the experiences of Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms of Czarist Russia in the late 19th century.  The exhibit also illustrates the growth of their community in the North End of Springfield, the eventual decline of such inner-city neighborhoods in the aftermath of World War II, and the 1960’s relocation of Springfield’s Jewish community and synagogues to Longmeadow and other parts of Western MA following a major urban renewal project in the North End…

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Springfield Museums Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Fiesta: Flora and Fauna from Puerto Rico
New Exhibit at Springfield Museums
September 10th, 2013 – May 11th, 2014

Fiesta represents an exciting combination: a detailed documentation of botanical and ecological phenomena, a reflection of Hispanic culture and perspective, and an example of formal watercolor techniques. Regardless of the prior knowledge and experiences visitors may bring to this exhibition, everyone will be able to connect with Vargas’ work. – Meet artist Josie Vargas at a special reception at the D’Amour Museum on Saturday, September 14th, 2013 between 6-8pm.

Josie Vargas, artist and adjunct professor at Parsons the New School for Design, will exhibit her watercolors at the Springfield Museums’ Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts this fall.  The exhibit, Fiesta: Flora and Fauna from Puerto Rico, is part of the Springfield Museums’ celebration of Hispanic History Month, and contains works that are inspired by the mood, colorful foliage, and landscapes of Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Bronx Botanical Gardens in New York.

Vargas draws inspiration from the vibrant photographs she takes while traveling, and from the words of Edgar A. Whitney: “You are not artists… you are shape makers.”  Her interest in tropical plants stems from her upbringing in New York City, where only a few hardy plants thrived on the city streets, and her visits to Puerto Rico, from whence her family originates and where the colorful plants are equal parts showy and resilient.

Her bold, energetic paintings celebrate the plant and animal life in Puerto Rico, and demonstrate her commitment to the “traditional” style of watercolor painting.  However, unlike many watercolor artists, whose images are relayed in ethereal pastel tones, Vargas’ works are “bold, sensual,” and truly saturated in color…

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Irish Legacy Exhibit Blends Local Immigration History with Artifacts at Springfield Museums

Irish Legacy Exhibit at Springfield Museums this Summer

Mother John Berchmans, left, a Sister of St. Joseph of Springfield, whose secular family name was Somers, established Our Lady of the Elms College in 1928 with the Most Rev. Thomas O’Leary, diocesan bishop. Sister Mary Cecelia Lucey, an accomplished musician and diocesan music teacher, succeeded her at the Elms. This photo was taken in 1948 on the Elms campus. (Photo courtesy of Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield/Mont Marie Archives)

The Pioneer Valley’s history is deeply entwined with the stories of thousands of Irish immigrants.  Local culture and industries were shaped in part by the growth in population that Irish immigration to the United States sparked along the Connecticut River.  The influence of this can still be seen amongst communities throughout the Valley.

To honor the rich cultural, geographic, and economic history of Irish immigrants, the Springfield Museums are offering an exhibit titled, “The Irish Legacy: Immigration and Assimilation in the Connecticut Valley During the Industrial Revolution.”  The exhibit, which will be open to visitors from June 11th through August 25th, blends historical information and data with photographs, books, and other artifacts including a St. Brigid cross, a traditional Celtic dance dress and shoes, and a bodhrán, and Irish instruments.  The museum will also offer scheduled special events for games, stories, performances, and other family-friendly activities to help younger visitors to absorb and understand the information displayed within the exhibit.

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Amazing Butterflies in Springfield All Summer!

Amazing Butterflies at the Springfield Museums
May 25-Sept 2nd, 2013

Amazing Butterflies is an interactive maze experience that allows visitors to explore the world of the butterfly and learn the surprising challenges butterflies face every day. Each station of the maze relates to a different phase of a butterfly’s life cycle, from a caterpillar to a dormant chrysalis and finally to a mature butterfly. As visitors make their way through the maze, they will also be introduced to some of the butterfly’s enemies and the challenges they face in finding food and a mate. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Amazing Butterflies is that it is designed for both children and adults, allowing families to share in the enjoyment of learning together.

What do question marks, painted ladies, and mourning cloaks all have in common? They’re all things that can be found this summer at the Springfield Museums’ newest exhibit. And they’re all species of butterflies!

Opening on May 25th, Amazing Butterflies is an interactive and informative exhibit created for both children and adults. Created by The Natural History Museum in London in collaboration with Minotaur Mazes, Amazing Butterflies takes visitors on a maze-like journey through the lifecycle of a butterfly, following this insect from its first days as a caterpillar to its last days as a fluttering butterfly.

In conjunction with this interactive exhibit at the museums is a Butterfly House – an enclosure filled with numerous native species of live butterflies for visitors to see up close. There’s no better way to observe the colors and patterns of a butterfly’s wings than by having it land on a leaf or flower right next to you for close inspection!

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Create a Gingerbread Fairy Tale for the Springfield Museums Holiday Exhibit

Springfield Museums Gingerbread Fairy Tales Exhibition & Competition Inspires Creative-Free Play in the Kitchen

The Springfield Museums are inviting bakeries, schools, individual bakers and young people to submit design plans to create gingerbread houses that will be on view at the  Springfield Science Museum as part of the holiday exhibit “Gingerbread Fairy Tales.”  Entry forms and design plans must be submitted by Nov. 9. Any structure, including designs based on fairy tales, recreations of historic homes or buildings, and magical make-believe creations, will be eligible. Completed gingerbread houses must be delivered to the Museums on Nov. 19 and will be on display from Nov. 23 through Dec. 30. (Submitted Photo)

What does your fantasy fairy tale castle look like?  Are there turrets?  A moat?  Maybe a drawbridge?  Now, what if it was made not out of stone, but of gingerbread, icing & candy? – Gingerbread houses are a great way to engage in creative-free play with your family, and the Springfield Museums is inviting community members of all ages to be a part of their holiday exhibit, “Gingerbread Fairy Tales.” All entries will be displayed in the museum alongside fairy tale backdrops and holiday trees beginning in mid-November.  

Entries (due by November 9th) can be created by school classes, businesses, youth groups, etc. – or your family can create one of their own!  Participation in the gingerbread contest offers youth a fun and creative way to experiment with architecture and design, as well as kitchen skills & creative-free play!  Families with kids of all ages can design an entry together – using careful planning to perfect designs for each wall, window, and courtyard – and can easily incorporate math, problem solving, food science, etc.

While the contest is exciting on its own, there’s even an extra incentive – prizes are available for certain entries!  For more information on the contest, including official guidelines and registration dates, visit the museum’s website at  www.springfieldmuseums.org.

The Springfield Museums are located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in  downtown Springfield.  For additional information about the gingerbread competition, please call Laura Scott at  413-263-6800 x387.

Springfield Museums Offer a Summer Finale of Educational Fun

Last Days of Summer at the Springfield Museums

We’re down to those last, bittersweet weeks of summer before fall routines gets re-established and school begins, and most of us have had that week’s vacation away elsewhere. So it may be a good time to plan a family day trip. Here’s my thoughts about what’s fun and educational at the Springfield Museums during these last few weeks of summer. For adults there’s the Tiffany Trail and for kids, a toys and games and Seuss trail.

The Tiffany Trail, which coordinates exhibits at 3 of our 4 museums, has been our main summer show. It’s a great opportunity to view the variety of work produced by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his New York Studio. At the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts you can see “Tiffany Lamps: Articles of Utility, Objects of Art.” Enter a cool, low-lit gallery full of his lamps in botanical shapes, unexpected textures and glorious colors – all made from glass. One thing I like is that right away you’re oriented to the craft involved; two cases at the beginning of the show feature samples of the glass used in the pieces and the process of joining those pieces together to make beautiful and useful objects –not unlike a jigsaw puzzle. Large format photos show the Tiffany Company workshops and sales rooms in New York, period newspaper advertisements show how much the lamps cost in their heyday, and there are pictures of some of the botanical inspirations used in the work. This show closes on Sept. 9th.

As you cross the Quadrangle on the way to the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum, you can visit the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden and sit in the Story Teller’s chair. Kids can check out some of their favorite Seuss characters, including a life-sized Horton. It’s a great spot for taking family pictures, so bring your camera.

Why Seuss in Springfield? Theodor S. Geisel – and yes, the S is for Seuss, his mother’s maiden name – was born in Springfield in 1904 and he grew up here. His dad ran the zoo in Forest Park and the family lived in that neighborhood. Dr. Seuss went to high school right across the street from the Museums, on State Street. The big building called Classical Condominiums used to be Classical High School, where he graduated in 1920 and a half! He starting his drawing career in high school and you can see his cartoons in his high school newspaper if you go to the Wood Museum of Springfield History and look at the Seuss exhibit there in the Great Hall.

In the George Walter Vincent Smith Museum you can check out the newly restored Tiffany windows commissioned by the Smiths themselves. They toured Europe and brought back many beautiful things, including a world-class collection of Asian art. Then they built their own museum in 1895 to share with the citizens of Springfield. They used to live in a house across the Quadrangle, where the D’Amour Museum is now, so they could walk over every day to be with their collections. Up the stairs on the second floor is another Tiffany treasure, a stained glass window called “The Light Bearer,” taken from the Church of the Unity across the street. It was given by the Bowles family, who started the Springfield Republican newspaper that many of us read today. On the second floor there’s also a Hasbro Discovery Center which is wondrously painted, and where kids can try on Asian inspired clothing and do activities and crafts.

Back outside, head toward the Science Museum and if you haven’t already, check out the big, big stick-work sculpture by artist Patrick Dougherty calledRoom by Room.” It’s made of nearly 8 tons of saplings, all woven together, and you can walk through the different “rooms.” It reminds me of some of the domed buildings that Dr. Seuss drew in his books, so it’s a perfect partner for his characters in the Seuss Sculpture Garden!

This summer, the Science Museum has a LEGO Castle Adventure interactive exhibit for kids, which is open until Sept. 9th. It’s on loan from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in partnership with LEGO. There are opportunities to build castles with LEGOs in age-appropriate settings, astonishing castles created by master-builders to view, and interactive exhibits which provide a chance to learn about medieval life. No reason not to check out the life sized dinosaur or the planetarium or the animal exhibits while you’re there. Just saying…..

Finally, you should go over to the new Wood Museum of Springfield History to see the silver Tiffany engraved firearms on the second floor. There are lots of great wall-sized photos of Springfield in the early 20th century to take you back to the heyday of Tiffany himself, and you can see the kinds of industrial innovations, and neat luxury cars, that were the capstone of his era. For children, it’s a great chance to see how innovations co-exist with what came before, especially in the realm of transportation. Photos show street life with horses, wagons, bicycles and electric streetcars all moving along at the same time.

In the Great Hall you can see Gee Bee racing planes suspended from the high, domed ceiling and learn about their 1930s history. Did you know that Springfield female flyer Maude Tait Moriarty bested Amelia Earhart’s speed record by 10 mph in 1931? That Indian Motorcycle, which begin in 1901, and was as popular as Harley Davidson in its heyday, marketed motorcycles to women in the nineteen teens and twenties, which you can see in their advertizing art in the Indian Motorcycle exhibit? That Milton Bradley began making games for soldiers to ease the boredom of camp life during the Civil War? You can see those early games and read about the Civil War from an original Springfield Republican newspaper from 1862. Then you can see later games made by Milton Bradley Co. in the Made in the Valley exhibit, and then follow up with a history of games on the wall which leads into the state-of-the-art Hasbro GameLand where kids and adults can play their own contemporary games of chance and skill and memory. Oh, and don’t forget to look at the Friendly Ice Cream exhibit on the second floor – you can see the original sign and counter from the first shop, started in July 1935 by the Blake brothers. We even have their first ledger where they kept their fledgling accounts – cool!

And don’t leave without looking at the Dr. Seuss exhibit I mentioned earlier – it’s in the Great Hall. You can see what inspired his art from photos of his surroundings in Springfield as he grew up.

But don’t just take my word for it – go and get the scoop at www.springfieldmuseums.org.

- Maggie Humberston


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maggie Humberston is the Head of the Library and Archives at the Wood Museum of Springfield History. She is on the board of the Pioneer Valley History Network, which works with its members to make everyone in western Massachusetts aware of our wonderful local history. She lives in the Springfield area with her family, including her Golden Retriever, Emma.

The Real Housewives of Currier and Ives in Springfield

The Real Housewives of Currier and Ives
Exhibit at Springfield Museums through June 25, 2012

Just as contemporary television and other media portray and define popular culture today, the ideals of Victorian culture permeated the visual media of that era, often in the form of art work designed by the publishing firm of Currier & Ives.

Throughout history and changes in culture, women have been depicted within various media as a stable and nurturing force, despite changes in their role within society.

The D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts (part of the Springfield Museums) is currently hosting a show of hand-colored Currier and Ives lithographs featuring Victorian portrayals of women.  The Real Housewives of Currier and Ives, as the show is titled, mainly shows women being portrayed as nurturers, caring for their homes and families, all while looking their best and dressing in period-appropriate, fashionable clothing.

However, the images do not necessarily represent women’s role in society during the periods pictured.

The exhibit will be open to visitors through June 25th, 2012 – check it out, and use the images as a jumping off point for learning about cultural influences on media and portrayal of women.  To find the museum’s hours, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.  And check with your local library.  Many branches have museum passes for library patron to check out.

April Vacation Week at the Springfield Museums

April Vacation Week at the Springfield Museums

While visiting the Springfield Museums, check out one of the newest installations, GameLand, an exhibit that teaches visitors about the history of games in American culture and also the thinking and learning behind the basics of many classic games. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Springfield Museums’ usual array of family activities is broader than ever during school vacation week!  Along with the museums’ many family-friendly exhibits and galleries, there will be several performances, special events, demonstrations, hands-on activities, and more!

The museum is currently hosting an exhibit titled, “Frogs: A Chorus of Colors,” which will be open throughout the week – families can learn about the habitat of many different types of frogs and how their adaptations reflect where they live.

Daily at 1pm, there will be kids’ concerts and performances, featuring interactive music from Brian Gillie, an artistic hip-hop dance performance by Poetry in Motion, and a concert of Indonesian gamelan music.  Families will also be able to participate in scavenger hunts, see planetarium shows, create art projects related to current exhibits, and learn about science from the museums’ Roving Scientist!

Daily performance schedule includes:

  • Monday, April 16 – Song, Dance, and the Possibilities by Brian Gillie.
  • Tuesday, April 17 – Fascinatin’ Rhythms by Cornell “Sugarfoot” Coley.
  • Wednesday, April 18 – Hip Hop Dimensions by the Poetry in Motion Crew.
  • Thursday, April 19 – The Bramble Jam.
  • Friday, April 20 – Music, Masks and Dance of Bali, Indonesia by Triple Shadow.

And ongoing activities happening throughout the week include:

  • 10am-4:45pm: Scavenger Hunts in the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts and the Wood Museum of Springfield History
  • 10:30am-1:30pm: Art Activities
  • 11am-2pm: Gallery Science Demonstrations with the Roving Scientist
  • 12noon-3:35pm: Art Discovery Center Activities
  • 11:15am, 12noon, 1pm & 2pm: Planetarium Shows ($)

For a full schedule and admission information, visit the museum’s website at www.springfieldmuseums.org or call 800-263-6800.

Dr. Seuss Turns 108! Let’s Celebrate!

Dr. Seuss Birthday Celebration
Springfield Museums
Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

(Courtesy Photo)

Do you like birthday cake?  Would you eat it in a box?  Or with a fox?  Or on a train or plane?  Join the Springfield Museums in celebrating Theodor Seuss Geisel’s (known to most as Dr. Seuss) birthday on March 3rd!

Dr. Seuss was born in Springfield, and the landscape and cityscape of his surroundings served as inspiration for many of his illustrations.  This year’s birthday celebration includes fun events and activities for families to enjoy, including a cake contest, where visitors can vote for their favorite Seuss-inspired cake; a craft activity where kids can make their own cap, a-la The Cat in the Hat; two performances of the Crabgrass Puppet Theater’s Haiku, Hip-hop, and Hot Dogs; and presentations of The ABC’s of Dr. Seuss, designed for kids ages 3-6.

The event takes place from 10am-5pm, and most activities are free with museum admission.  Being a part of the birthday bash is a great way to get kids excited about reading- kids will be able to do activities and see displays inspired by books they’ve likely encountered already!  For more information, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org or call the museum at 800-625-7738.

Other Dr. Seuss celebrations in Western MA include:

Friday, March 2nd from 10am-4pm – MUSEUM ADVENTURE: Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday today at the Amelia Park Children’s Museum!  There will be a Dr. Seuss book reading with the mayor of Westfield at 10am, birthday cake at 11am, and face painting, crafts, treats, and more happening all day!  413-572-4014.  29 South Broad Street.  Westfield, MA.  (<$)

Saturday, March 3rd from 10am-12noon – COMMUNITY CELEBRATION: Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday today at the Edwards Library!  The event includes games, crafts, a performance from award-winning children’s musician Roger Ticknell, and, of course, birthday cake!  413-529-9480.  30 East Street.  Southampton, MA.  (FREE)

Sunday, March 4th at 2pm – DR. SEUSS: Celebrate Dr. Seuss 108 birthday at the town hall with stories, refreshments and music by Roger Tincknell. at the Town Hall. 1 Cooleyville Road. Shutesbury, MA (>$)

“Frogs: A Chorus of Colors” Exhibit Comes to Springfield

Frogs: A Chorus of Colors
Springfield Museums
January 21st – May 13th, 2012

Borneo Eared Frog featured in "Frogs: A Chorus of Colors." (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Springfield Museums will be hosting the exhibit, “Frogs: A Chorus of Colors,” January 21st through May 13th, 2012.  This is a new exhibit of live frogs that teaches visitors about the many different types of frogs found around the world and the habitats in which they can be found.  The exhibit holds fifteen different habitats filled with plants, waterfalls, rocks, ledges, etc., each of which is filled with frogs and toads.  Museum visitors can learn to identify frogs by reading about specimens, watching videos of frogs, and listening to recordings of frog calls.  Kids can even learn why each frog looks the way that it does by comparing the frog’s size and coloring to the habitat in which it can be found.

Opening Day: Saturday, January 21st from 10am-5pm. The exhibit’s opening day features exciting events including live animal demonstrations from 11am-12:45pm and a puppet performance of “The Frog Prince” at 1pm.

A visit to the new exhibit is a great opportunity to learn about amphibians that live outside of your backyard!  To learn more, call the Springfield Museums at 800-625-7738 or visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.

To find out more about this exhibit, read our review from the summer of 2009 when it came to the Berkshire Museum: Frogs Educate and Fascinate Museum Goers in Pittsfield, MA.

Literacy Outreach Program: ABC’s of Dr. Seuss

The ABC’s of Dr. Seuss
Springfield Museums Literacy Outreach Program

Usually, museums offer their resources to educational groups just for field trips.  However, the Springfield Museums offer a unique program that brings the museum to you!  The outreach program is called, “The ABC’s of Dr. Seuss,” and is designed to promote literacy in young kids through reading, art, and movement activities.  The program is available for schools, daycare centers, community centers, homeschool groups, etc.  It’s a convenient alternative to field trips, as it saves on transportation costs (and reduces the environmental impact of your class/group!).  A visit from the program could be included in a unit on local history where kids learn about important people from Springfield, then read Dr. Seuss books together!  For more information on the program or to learn how to book a visit, check out The ABCs of Dr. Seuss: Literacy Program at the Springfield Museums.

Take a Glimpse Back into French Art and Culture at the Springfield Museum this Winter

Take a Glimpse Back into French Art and Culture at New Exhibit, Old Masters to Monet: Three Centuries of French Painting

"The Duchesse de Poignac Wearing a Straw Hat, 1782," an oil painting on canvas by French artist, Elizabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) will be on display at the Springfield Museums’ D’Amour Art Museum through April 29th, 2012, courtesy of the Wadsworth Atheneum. The Wadsworth Atheneum, America's oldest public art museum, has never before presented a full-scale survey of its distinguished collection of French paintings. This exhibition of 50 masterpieces provides a history of French painting and includes religious and mythological subjects, portraiture, landscape, still life, and genre painting.

The Springfield Museums’ D’Amour Art Museum is hosting an exciting new art exhibit on loan from the Wadsworth Athenaeum of Hartford, CT titled,  “Old Masters to Monet: Three Centuries of French Painting,” which includes 50 pieces that together provide a survey of the history of French painting and includes works from as far back as the 17th century.

This is the first show of its kind to be presented by the Wadsworth, allowing students a glimpse back into French art and culture.  Over the winter break, take your kids to see the show. While viewing the paintings, ask them if they see any similarities or differences amongst the works of different artists, taking a look at the development of techniques and changes in subject matter over time.

TOURS

A free audio tour of the exhibit will be available for listening to narratives about the different paintings using your cell phone. Selected artwork will have “Guide by Cell” symbols indicating commentary on the painting for your family to hear.

If your youth group would like request a highlighted tour of the exhibit with one of the Museum’s docent’s, call 413-263-6800 ext. 379, or email grouptours@springfieldmuseums.org.

School programs/tours that are align with the MA State Curriculum Frameworks can also be arranged by calling 413-263-6800 ext. 322, or email schooltours@springfieldmuseums.org. — A teacher open house is scheduled for January 11th, 2012 from 4-6pm. Reservations required. Call 413.263.6800, ext. 323.

LECTURES

For older students and homeschoolers, several of the museum’s Museums a la Carte Lectures will support the exhibit with a number of discussions during the exhibit’s stay.  Their lecture Culture or Counter-Culture: Café Society in 19th Century Paris on March 29th will take a look at 19th century French paintings of “seedy bohemian life or scenes of glittering, gilded café concerts, cabarets, music halls and opera are more than charming pictures of a long ago world. They depict a reality unique to Paris,” as explained on the Museum’s web site. “Cafes offered Parisians from all classes a gathering place where sociability was as important as food and drink. For artists, among them Courbet, Monet, Renoir, Cassatt, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, the café became a gold mine of subject matter, a source for lively images of modern life. In this lecture, we will look at the art they made and explore the rich story of 19th century café life in the City of Light.”

The exhibit is open during normal museum hours from December 13th through April 29th.  For more information, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org. To find out which local library has free museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page. Springfieldresidents receive free general admission with proof of address.

Local History, Natural Science & Art at the Springfield Museums

Educational Programs for Kids at the Springfield Museums

One educational program the museums host is "Eye Spy." This program encourages young artists to look beyond the canvas into the details, textures, materials and stories that make up a work of art. Curriculum connections include discussion, questioning, listening and vocabulary/concept development. Click on the image to see all programs offered at the Springfield Museums!

There are numerous educational opportunities and adventures to be had at the Springfield Museums!

Visitors can explore topics and ideas anywhere from important figures in local history to coral reef ecosystems.

There are five different museums, each with a theme of local history, natural science, and art. The museums offer guided tours as well as self-guided tours (which are really educational odysseys!) to groups both big and small. Classrooms, schools, homeschool groups, youth groups, etc. can all benefit from a museum tour tailored specifically to fit the group’s needs!

For more information on tours and to check out options, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org or email schooltours@springfieldmuseums.org.

Design Studies with “Beyond this Window” at D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield

Design Studies at Springfield Museums’
D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts with
Beyond this Window: Paintings by Briana Taylor
on view through Jan 8th, 2012

Taylor’s paintings document the seemingly insignificant architectural details and reflected light that often go unnoticed in ordinary objects. By recording the aesthetic properties – such as shape, form, light and shadow, color and depth – of these everyday artifacts, she preserves images of contemporary material culture.

Paintings by local artist Briana Taylor are currently on display at the Springfield Museums’ D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts.  The subjects of Taylor’s paintings include everyday objects such as glass jars, marbles, and painted surfaces, and her work focuses on properties such as light/shadow, shape, form, and depth.  The show portrays images of material culture and inspires visitors to consider the shape and function of everyday objects.

A visit to the exhibit, accompanied by some discussion of the work (and, for older kids, perhaps some comparisons to other pieces) can be used as a way to introduce children to the principles of architecture, art, and/or design.

For more information, as well as museum hours and admission information, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.

Molecular Playground at the Springfield Museums

Molecular Playground: Architectural Scale Interactive Molecules at the Springfield Museums

Have you ever reached out and touched a protein molecule? How about a single particle of the flu vaccine? Now you can at the Springfield Museums at a new exhibit called the Molecular Playground! The exhibit was designed partially by UMass chemistry professor Craig Martin, and teaches visitors about molecular shape and structure as well as an appreciation for molecules as both artistically beautiful and scientifically fascinating. The interactive exhibit is great for all ages- parents included!- and is a great way to introduce kids to chemistry. For information on admission and hours, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.

Discovering Local History: Educational Tours, Colonial Living and New Exhibit

Local History Learning this Weekend with
Plainfield Schools, Pioneer Valley Philanthropy & Wilder Homestead

Colonial Living in the Hilltowns this weekend at the Wilder Homestead in Buckland, MA. (Courtesy photo)

Colonial Living at Wilder Homestead

Spend the afternoon at the Wilder Homestead in Buckland on Sunday, October 9th to get a taste of what Colonial living was like! There will be demonstrations, performances, and activities to try, including open hearth cooking, quilting, basket making, weaving, cider pressing, music from the 1700’s, and morris dancers! A visit to the homestead is a way to learn about local history, as well! The event is presented by the Buckland Historical Society, and the homestead is located on Route 112 between Buckland Center and Mohawk Trail High School.

History of Plainfield’s School

The Plainfield Historical Society’s series of educational tours, “Hidden Walls, Hidden Mills: Exploring the Hilltown Landscape,” continues this weekend on Sunday, October 9th at 1pm with an event entitled, “Surveying the School Lot.”  The event will take place at the School Lot, home to the building that once housed the town’s first permanent school and which now houses the Shaw Memorial Library and the town offices.  Attendees with learn all about the history of Plainfield’s schools, and will also learn about the art of surveying (the way that it was done in 1925).  This is a great event for families- the surveying will be a hands-on activity where everyone can participate and learn!  Bring a compass and sense of adventure to tromp through tall grass and around site. For more information, contact bouric@post.harvard.edu.

Pioneer Valley Philanthropy

The Springfield Museums have a new exhibit!  In the Wood Museum of Springfield History, visitors can now explore and learn from an exhibit on notable philanthropists from the Pioneer Valley and the things that we have today that their dedication and generosity provided.  The exhibit includes people like Smith College’s namesake Sophia Smith, and Everett Barney, who donated the land that is now Forest Park to the city of Springfield.  Visitors to the exhibit will learn about local history and the development of many important valley landmarks, and will gain a greater understanding of how their community was developed.  For more information on this exhibit, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.

Other local history learning opportunities this week: Read the rest of this entry »

5 Ways Springfield Shaped the Art of Dr. Seuss

And to Think that He Saw It in Springfield!

Sara J. Orr of the Springfield Museums writes:

The huge old building with four belching smokestacks that was the Springfield Gasworks appears as the Thneeds factory in "The Lorax".

The influence of Springfield, MA on the world famous children’s book author known as Dr. Seuss is explained in And to Think that He Saw It in Springfield, a new exhibit at the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History at the Quadrangle.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield, MA on March 2, 1904, in his family’s home on Howard Street. The Geisels moved to 74 Fairfield Street in the Forest Park neighborhood when Ted was two years old, and it was there that he grew up.

Although Ted Geisel left home after he graduated from Dartmouth in 1925, the familiar buildings, people and landscapes from his childhood in Springfield appear again and again in his books. The exhibition includes many remarkable comparisons of his fanciful illustrations with actual photographs of places and things in Springfield that he would have known.

Vintage photo of the former Springfield Gasworks building, the Thneed factory depicted in "The Lorax". Click to see larger image.

The title of his first published children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, refers to an actual street in Springfield that Ted Geisel would have walked past on his way to high school.

The huge old building with four belching smokestacks that was the Springfield Gasworks appears as the Thneeds factory in The Lorax. The crenellated towers of the castle-like Howard Street Armory in Springfield appear in The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

The strange-looking vehicle driven by Sylvester McMonkey McBean in The Sneetches looks very much like a huge tractor built in Springfield by the Knox Automobile Company. The winding paths that once weaved their way through Springfield’s Forest Park, where Ted Geisel’s father was park superintendent, appear in Horton Hears a Who!.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cold-blooded Creatures Invade the Springfield Science Museum

Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly

Come see a tree-dwelling Veiled Chameleon with a tongue longer than its body! (Submitted photo)

The Springfield Science Museum will have the special exhibit Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly, on view from January 15 through May 22, 2011. The world’s largest traveling reptile exhibition, Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly is an interactive zoological exhibition bringing visitors face to face with living reptiles from around the world. Colorful lizards, bizarre turtles, deadly snakes, alligators and crocodiles are exhibited in naturalistic habitats.

Families will encounter a giant seven-foot Monitor Lizard, a strange-looking Alligator Snapping Turtle, a deadly Cobra, a tree-dwelling Veiled Chameleon with a tongue longer than its body, a Diamond-back Rattlesnake, a Gaboon Viper which has the longest fangs of any snake, and many more exotic reptiles from the four corners of the Earth.

The exhibition is loaded with stunning images, cool facts about reptiles, and plenty of hands-on action. A push of a button and “venom” drips from the tip of a model rattlesnake’s fang. At another interactive station a model viper skull opens and closes, exposing the long fangs and folding them against the roof of the mouth. You can also hear recorded crocodile “conversations” and learn what they mean. At other stations, children can flip boards and push buttons to discover interesting facts about these cold-blooded creatures.

Read the rest of this entry »

Giveaway: 5 Annual Family Memberships to 5 Western Mass Museums!

At the turn of the year, Hilltown Families will be turning five years old … and we will be celebrating all year long! We started off our celebration by offering 5 Gifts Locally Handmade by Hilltown Mompreneurs (see who won here).

Over the years, Hilltown Families has had the great pleasure of letting families throughout the region know about all of the wonderful events happening at the plethora of world class museums we have access to here in Western Massachusetts.

We are continuing our 5 year celebration with the Berkshire Museum, The Eric Carle Museum, Historic Deerfield, MASS MoCA and Springfield Museums! These 5 Western Massachusetts Museums have joined our party and are offering our readers an annual family membership! One very, very lucky family will win a family membership to all five of these local cultural gems! How wicked awesome is that!? It’s our birthday, but you get the presents!

Each week on our list of Weekly Suggested Events, we share family and community activities offered by these local gems, along with educational opportunities, performances and camps. We’ve featured many stellar museum exhibits including:  The Art of the Brick at the Springfield Museum;  Color Forms I: Pink and Blue Projects at KidSpace at MASS MoCA; and Armed & Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal at the Berkshire Museum.

Contributing writer Karen Bayne has shared her family day visits to Historic DeerfieldSpringfield Museums, and the Berkshire Musuem — and our outings have always been equally enjoyable: like our visit to Historic Deerfield for A Cozy Winter DayMidwinter Magic puppet show at the Springfield Museum; and Constant Wonder’s educational performance Wings of a Feather at the Eric Carle Museum.

The Berkshire Museum continues to delight us with their activities and exhibits. We discovered  truly amazing amphibians at the exhibit Frogs: A Chorus of Color; delighted in the Berkshire Children’s Theater’s performance of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid in the auditorium;  enjoyed soul food and a performance of Hip-Hop, African and modern dances at their Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday party; and dressed up and attended a fabulously kitchy retro gala to celebrate the exhibit, Kid Stuff: Great Toys from Our Childhood.

Over the years we’ve also shared ways to participate at the Eric Carle Museum, including the Be Kind to Animals Week contest and an invitation to create a butterfly for their Batches of Butterflies community display. And we’ve offered several opportunities to win tickets to family concerts hosted in their auditorium, including Gustafer Yellowgold, Princess Katie & Racer Steve, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, and Elizabeth Mitchell.

The educational opportunities with our local museums are constant. Historic Deerfield has hosted a Homeschool Harvest Day and a historic look at chocolate during their American Heritage Chocolate Celebration.  The Springfield Museum has offered many opportunities to learn a bit of American history, including a reading of  Frederick Douglass Speech and an Underground Railroad Lecture.  And the Berkshire Museum has many programs for homeschool educators and teachers and has participated in the citizen science project, Firefly Watch!

To read more about how you can make your family visit fun to one of our local museums read the post, The Wonderment of Museums.

Deadline to enter to win an annual family membership to all 5 museums: Monday, January 3rd, 2011 by 7pm (EST).  Find out more about these museums below and the benefits of membership.

DISCOVER MORE ABOUT THESE LOCAL TREASURES

MASS MoCA

MASS MoCA is located at 87 Marshal St. (North Adams). Since opening in 1999 in North Adams MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) has become one of the world’s premier centers for making and showing the best art of our time, exhibiting large-scale and complex installations by many of the most important artists of today. An essential and integral part of MASS MoCA’s mission are the more than 75 performances staged year-round, including popular music, contemporary dance, alternative cabaret, world music dance parties, outdoor silent films with live music, documentaries, and avant-garde theater. (413) 662-2111 www.massmoca.org

Benefits of a family membership:  MASS MoCA is offering a free family membership ($90 value), which gives inside access to the best of contemporary art and performance. Members enjoy exclusive benefits, including free gallery admission, invitations to exhibition openings, opportunities to meet artists and performers, and discounts at MASS MoCA concerts, films, and live theater; Hardware: The MASS MoCA Store; The Porches Inn; and the Lickety Split Cafe.

BERKSHIRE MUSEUM

The Berkshire Museums is located at 39 South St. (Pittsfield, MA). At the Berkshire Museum, there’s something for everyone. The museum offers a unique blend of exhibitions, galleries, and attractions for families of all ages. See exhibitions, fine art, and sculpture from around the world. Pet a live starfish in their touch tank and discover their 20 aquarium tanks and assorted terrariums. Be amazed at their collection of artifacts from Native American cultures and ancient cultures. Marvel at the technology that awaits in the new Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation. And their Natural Science Galleries incorporate hundreds of rocks, minerals, fossils, and animal specimens into interactive exhibits, serving visitors of all ages and learning styles with hands-on experiences. (413) 443-7171 www.berkshiremuseum.org

Benefits of a family membership:  The Berkshire Museum is offering a free annual family/household membership ($75 value). Annual membership benefits include: unlimited free admission to 1st floor galleries and Aquarium; invitation to exhibition openings; discounts on Museum programs (including performances, camps & lectures); reduced tickets to Little Cinema; discount on Museum Store purchases; and free admission to 260+ museums participating in the ASTC Passport Program worldwide.

HISTORIC DEERFIELD

Historic Deerfield is located at 80 Old Main St. (Deerfield, MA). Historic Deerfield, an authentic New England experience, is a great place for families to learn about early American Life. Their museums and programs provide today’s audiences with experiences that create an understanding and appreciation of New England’s historic villages and countryside. Explore 11 museum houses with trained guides, world- class collections of antiques, special exhibitions, and an outdoor garden and meadow walk. Experience early American life from the 1704 Deerfield Raid and the French and Indian War, to the American Revolution and the first decades of the new Republic. Enjoy family programs, hands-on activities, special events, distinctive shopping, and tavern lunch—all in a 330-year-old village. (413) 774-5581www.historic-deerfield.org

Benefits of a family membership:  The Historic Deerfield is offering a free annual family membership ($60 value). The benefits of a family membership includes: free, unlimited admission to all museum houses; a subscription to Historic Deerfield; Special advance notices and member discount information for trips, classes and workshops; Free admission to all of their Hands-On History family programs; Discounts at the Museum Store and Deerfield Inn.

THE ERIC CARLE MUSEUM OF PICTURE BOOK ART

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, located at 125 West Bay Rd. (Amherst, MA), is a stunning, 40,000 square-foot facility in the heart of Western MA, is loved by families, art aficionados and book lovers alike. The Carle houses three Galleries with rotating exhibits of picture book art from around the world, and a permanent collection including works by artists. A hands-on Art Studio allows visitors to create their own masterpiece any time The Carle is open. The Auditorium hosts regular live performances, films, lectures, and guest appearances by renowned authors and illustrators. The comfortable Reading Library is the perfect spot for Storytime. The Museum Shop is stocked with unique gifts and a beautiful array of picture books. (413) 658-1100. www.carlemuseum.org

Benefits of a family membership: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is offering a family membership ($65 value).  Benefits of membership includes free, unlimited admission for two adults plus up to four children. Enrollment of up to four children in the Caterpillar Club which includes: A Certificate of Membership with each child’s name. Invitations to Members-Only events. Subscription to the Museum Newsletter, Event Calendar, E-newsletter, 15% discount in the Museum Shop (30% during the annual holiday sale), Advance notice and discounts on various Museum events including classes, workshops, performances, films, and lectures. Free museum exhibition poster.

SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS

Springfield Museums, located at 21 Edwards St. (Springfield, MA). A welcome committee of larger-than-life Dr. Seuss characters greets you at New England’s own “mini Smithsonian” – four outstanding museums filled with science, art and history, plus the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. Encounter a life-size Tyrannosaurus rex in Dinosaur Hall, blast off to new worlds in the planetarium, take a safari through Africa, play among statues of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved characters, meet some critters in the live animal center, see Springfield-built antique cars and Indian Motocycles, enjoy hands-on activities in the Art Discovery Center, and much more. Picnic on the beautiful Quadrangle green in nice weather. One admission fee. Free onsite parking. Museum Store. (413) 263-6800 www.springfieldmuseums.org

Benefits of a family membership:  Springfield Museums is offering a household membership ($75 value) for all 5 of their museums. Become a member at the Household level and enjoy unlimited free admission to all museums and the planetarium for two adults and all children. Get discounts on Museum School classes, birthday parties, and Museum Store purchases. Receive invitations to members-only events. Get the museum event calendar, course and travel catalogue, and program flyers in your mailbox. Plus free admission to a host of other science and children’s museums nationwide.

HOW TO WIN:

Your chance to win annual family memberships to the Berkshire Museum, The Eric Carle Museum, Historic Deerfield, MASS MoCA and Springfield Museums is as easy as 1-2-3 (4-5)! To win simply:

  1. SHARE THIS PAGE ON FACEBOOK BY SELECTING “LIKE” BELOW
  2. TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES HAS BENEFITTED YOUR FAMILY THESE PAST FIVE YEARS in the comment box below, and be sure to tell us your
  3. FULL NAME and where you
  4. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) Must include your town and state to be eligible. We’ll randomly draw a winner from those who participate and contact the winner via email.  So be sure to leave an
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL in the email field of the comment box (we never share your email address).

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! —  Deadline to enter to win is Monday, January 3rd, 2011 by 7pm (EST).  All five annual family memberships will be awarded to one family and issued separately from each participating museum.  If you have any questions, please contact us before entering to win at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

Ticket Giveaway: The Buzz About Bees Family FunFest

Like This!

The Buzz About Bees Family FunFest
Family Concert with Uncle Rock
Bees, Cat in the Hat, Science and More!
Springfield Musuems
Friday, August 27th from 10am-4pm

Win tickets to see Uncle Rock, the Cat in the Hat, Bees and more at The Buzz About Bees Family FunFest in Springfield, MA on Friday, August 27th. - Deadline to enter to win a family 4-pack of free tickets is 8/25/10. Details below.

Hilltown Families and the Springfield Museums have partnered up to offer a family 4-pack of tickets to The Buzz About Bees Family FunFest at the museum on Friday, August 27th, from 10 am-4 pm in downtown Springfield, MA, featuring a family concert with Uncle RockDeadline to enter to win is Wednesday, August 25th at 7pm (EST).

ABOUT THE BUZZ ABOUT BEES FAMILY FUNFEST

The Springfield Museums and WGBY Public Television are pairing up to present The Buzz about Bees Family FunFest to celebrate the launch of the new science-based PBS series The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! with activities for kids and families, including:

  • Family concert with Uncle Rock (1pm)
  • Special sneak preview of the premiere episode of the new PBS Kids program The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!
  • Meet a bee keeper and learn about a real bee hive in the Science Museum
  • Visit a honey market hosted by local bee keepers
  • Join a scavenger hunt through the museum galleries
  • Make bee antenna headbands
  • Try on glasses that make you see like a bee
  • Greet the Cat in the Hat and costumed bee characters as they travel through the Museums

ABOUT THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT!

A team of science and early childhood experts developed the curriculum for The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!™ Each episode begins with a question posed by Sally or Nick. Guided by the Cat, the kids figure things out for themselves by observing, collecting and managing clues, making connections, constructing and evaluating theories, and having discussions — all in a preschool-appropriate manner.

To support the show’s science curriculum, educator-designed parent and teacher resources will be available this fall on PBS Parents (pbsparents.org) and PBS Teachers (pbsteachers.org) sites. A specially prepared The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!™ Explorer’s Guide will empower parents and teachers to engage children in scientific inquiry, nurture their innate curiosity, and inspire them to stay excited and interested in science. The sites will also feature activities, tips, and strategies that parents and teachers can use to help children connect the science concepts in the series with their everyday explorations.

HOW TO WIN

Your chance to win a family 4-pack of tickets to The Buzz About Bees Family FunFest at the museum on Friday, August 27th, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in downtown Springfield, MA is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  1. SHARE A SCIENCE QUESTION YOUR KIDS MIGHT ASK BELOW (one entry per family) and be sure to tell us your
  2. FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  5. We’ll randomly draw two winners and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 08/25/10 @ 7pm (EST).

If you don’t win, you should still go! The Springfield Museums are located at the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in downtown Springfield. Parking is free in the museum lots on Edwards Street. For more information call 413-263-6800, ext. 488.

STREET TEAM: HELP US SPREAD THE WORD AND EARN AN EXTRA ENTRY Read the rest of this entry »

A Day at the Springfield Museums

Heat Wave

The crew with The Grinch in the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museum. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

When we moved an hour north, I thought it might be snowier in the winter, but I didn’t think it’d be hotter in the summers. Here in Northampton we have been victims of several faker summer thunderstorms. The skies cloud over, we get ready to go do our rain dance of joy in the streets, the wind picks up, we hear a distant rumble, a few drops fall and then it all drifts away. Somebody else gets our rain, I suppose. A mother could go crazy like this, but instead we went to the Springfield Museums in Springfield, MA.

The Springfield Science Museum is a moderate sized natural history museum. As we’d been melting in the heat for days, the air-conditioning was like a shot in the arm. Am I the only mother at museums trying to slow my kids down enough to soak in a little information? The Dinosaur Hall, the African wing, the aquariums downstairs put us through our paces. For younger kids, there are plenty of eye-level exhibits and buttons to push. The Dinosaur Hall and African wing have a pleasant dark & quiet museum exhibit feel, with low lights and tall ceilings. Four year old Theo enjoyed being frightened by the life size replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Oh, the Places You'll Go! (Photo credit: Isaac Bayne)

All the kids enjoyed a pretend safari through the African animals exhibit. The sound effects were quite realistic. The lion’s roar rumbled in the kids’ chests. Their eyes went big like saucers, and they hid behind me. Apparently, if approached by roaring lion, all my boys will try to hide behind my linen skirt and wait for me to put the big cat in timeout.

My children are deeply impressed by rocks; in fact, I can hear their voices now: Not rocks, mama, meteors! Meteors from outer-space! The boys spent a full 30 minutes comparing meteorite samples while we waited for the planetarium show. There were bits you could touch and other bits you could look at magnified. There were meteorite bits with amino acid in them, bits with water from space, and bits from meteorites to big to be moved without getting chopped to pieces.

Springfield is the birth place of Theodor Seuss Geisel and inspired many of his works. Sculptures of Dr. Seuss characters are in the corner of the Quadrangle green. Sculpture groups include Dr. Seuss and the Cat in the Hat (pictured in part here), Horton Court, and The Storyteller. You'll also find the Lorax in another corner of the quad. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The basement of the museum contains a live animal center, featuring fish and critters from our native New England rivers and coastline and forests. We will have to return to the animal tracks exhibit because all four of us proved incapable of accurately determining whether the tracks over the woodpile were made by a rabbit or a fox. We made several guesses and were quite wrong at least four times.

We made our way out to the quad for a snack time. It was hot but that did not stop my boys from rushing to the Dr. Seuss sculpture. The pictures say it all. If Theo could have crawled up on Seuss’ lap, he would have.

I was just about ready to tear us all away, when I decide to brave one of the art museums, all alone with three boys on a hot day. GWV Smith Art Museum’s first floor promised Samurai stuff. We had to see it, but I was nervous that the museum staff be visibly annoyed. The boys bounced in as quietly as they could. The Arms and Armor of Japan are directly opposite the door. The museum guide took one look at us and knew what we had come to see. It then took us each a while to pick our favorite samurai. The boys then decided they loved all the swords the best as there was no way to pick a favorite samurai sword.

In the Art Discovery Center, families are invited to try on costumes, play games, explore Asian culture, hear stories and participate in craft activities. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Henry, who is six, was completely taken by the Sculpture Hall, which was full of plaster casts of original classical works. When asked what he liked so much about the statues he replied, “I was thinking I could be one.” The staff invited the kids upstairs to the Art Discovery Center. Isaac spent his time photographing the walls, which are beautifully painted. Henry and Theo enjoyed the puppet theater, toys and books. Then they tried on some costumes which proved to be hilarious. At the very far end of the room, some very young staff members were hosting arts and crafts time at the the tables. Our afternoon of fun was winding down. We were sent home with pretty fancy coloring sheets that helped to soften the blow when I decided to pack us back in the van and drive north.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

Museums to Join Public Reading of Frederick Douglass Speech

Springfield Museums to Join Public Reading of Frederick Douglass Speech
Wednesday, June 30th at Noon

The communal reading and discussion of abolitionist Frederick Douglass's 1852 speech, "The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro" would be a great supplement to America history curriculum for older students. Younger students can discover Frederick Douglass at home in David Adler's book, "A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass."

The Springfield Museums are participating in a communal reading of Frederick Douglass’s fiery 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro.” The shared reading will take place at noon on June 30th in Court Square in Springfield and will be followed by a discussion at First Church.

On July 5, 1852, Douglass, a former slave and leading abolitionist, addressed the “race question” at an event in Rochester, NY, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “Fellow-citizens,” he began, “why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” The full text of the speech is available online at the Mass Humanities website, www.masshumanities.org.

The program is intended to take up the challenge leveled by Barack Obama at Constitution Hall in Philadelphia: “I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle. Race is an issue this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. To work for ‘a more perfect union’ we need to start to understand complexities that we’ve never really worked through. [This] requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point.”

The event is part of a state-wide series of readings which is partially funded by a We the People grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Local collaborating organizations are Mass Humanities, the Springfield Cultural Council, Art for the Soul Gallery, and the Springfield Museums. Additional sponsors are The Brethren, Olive Tree Books and Voices, PAHMUSA, Springfield NAACP, and the Teaching American History Program of the Springfield Public Schools.

Lego® Art in Western Mass

The Art of the Brick
Through September 5th at the Springfield Museums

The Lego Art of Nathan Sawaya will be on display at the Springfield Museums from June 16th - September 5th, 2010.

If you build it, they will come. And New York artist Nathan Sawaya has built some amazing sculptures out of common LEGO® building bricks.

The Art of the Brick features 29 whimsical three-dimensional works created from nearly one million colorful pieces. Sawaya’s attention to detail, scale, color and sense of action elevates this common toy to the status of art. He has the uncanny ability to make little rectangular bricks produce curved forms. The exhibit includes portraits and human figures, a 19-foot-long dinosaur skeleton, abstract constructions, and common objects such as a giant pencil and a skateboard. Both beautiful and playful, the exhibit appeals to adults and children alike.

As a child, Sawaya drew cartoons, wrote stories, perfected magic tricks and also played with LEGO. After college at NYU he rediscovered LEGO not as a toy, but as an art medium. He has been featured on national television, including The Today Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Colbert Report. In January of this year, there was an entire Jeopardy category devoted to The Lego Art of Nathan Sawaya.

The Springfield Museums are located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in downtown Springfield, Mass. Free parking is available in the Edwards Street parking lots. Summer hours are Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. For information, call 413-263-6800 or visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.

Public Night Sky-Gazing at the Springfield Science Museum on May 7th, 2010

Stars Over Springfield at the Springfield Science Museum

Rooftop telescope at the Springfield Science Museum.

The Springfield Science Museum’s large rooftop telescope will be open for public sky-gazing on Friday, May 7th, 2010, at 7:30 p.m. The program will be held rain or shine. If it is overcast, a planetarium show will be presented in place of telescope viewing.

Christopher Lyons, museum astronomy educator, will present “The Life Cycle of Stars.” Stars, like humans, are born, live their lives as adults, and go through major changes as they grow old and finally die. But they do this over a life-span of millions and billions of years. Lyons will explain the out-of-this-world stages and processes of a star’s life.

After the presentation, participants can use the museum telescope to view sights in the night sky, which may include objects such as the moon, a planet, star clusters, a nebula or a galaxy, depending on their visibility. Springfield Stars Club members also set up telescopes outside the museum, weather permitting.

The programs are best suited for families with children ages 8 and older, however younger children are also welcome. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children 17 and under.

The Springfield Science Museum is located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street, off Chestnut Street. Free parking is available in the Edwards Street lots. For information about astronomy programs at the museum, call 413-263-6800, ext. 318.

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