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 »

Holidays & the History of Toys

toy history

While toys are a constant theme throughout childhood, during the holidays the purchasing of toys happen more than any other time of year. Looking forward to the arrival of Santa, many children fantasize about all of the new exciting playthings they might receive as holiday gifts while parents are inundated by internet advertisements, big box sales, e-mail offers, and specially printed catalogs bombard us with lists and lists of things that we could buy for our children.

During the holidays, when we are more aware of the commercial toy industry than ever, that it can be empowering for children to consider the history of toys and the role that they play (and have played) within our society. This theme can be explored on many different levels with children of all ages, and learning about the history of toys can help children to gain perspective on the toys with which that they themselves play. In addition to serving as a lens through which to consider American history and culture, a study of toys can help children to reflect on the role that toys play in their lives – helping them to recognize their preferred activities and unique learning style. Read on…

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…

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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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Springfield Museums Hosts Summer Spectacular Series

Museums Adventures this Summer at the Springfield Museums’ Summer Spectacular

The centerpiece of the Springfield Museums’ Summer Spectacular series is the array of top-tier family performers from around the northeast appearing every Wednesday through Friday in the Davis Auditorium at 1pm, including The Pirate, the Princess and the Pea performed by Crabgrass Puppets (Fri., July 26).

The Springfield Museums are offering families a full six weeks of hands-on learning fun this summer! The Summer Spectacular combines fun, educational performances from the northeast’s top children’s performers with weekly learning adventures including art-making, musical instrument testing, and cultural explorations. There’s always something to do and learn at the Springfield Museums, and the Spectacular is helping to make the museum even more fun. Families can visit frequently this summer and be assured that there will be something new to do!

    Visiting a museum is a very effective way to beat the heat – it’s cool and out of the sun, and presents more opportunities for learning than a visit to the mall or a movie theater. A typical day at the museum could include a visit to the museums’ collection of Indian motorcycles, some interactive play in Gameland, a science experiment with a Roving Scientist, some up-close-and-personal time with live butterflies, a meet-and-greet with some exotic critters, inspired art-making, and a hilarious musical, performed entirely with handmade puppets!

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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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The Instrument that Rocked the World, Rocks Western MA!

GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World
Rocks the Springfield Museums!
January 18 through April 21, 2013

GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World, an exhibit celebrating what is arguably the single most enduring icon in American history, will be on view January 18 through April 21, 2013 at the Springfield Museums.

Throughout history, the many different media that humans have used in order to channel their creativity has expanded – whether as a result of changes in technology, shifting culture, or the availability of different and materials, the ways in which we convey and share our creativity constantly evolving.  The Springfield Museums’ most recent addition explores the history behind one particularly interesting and popular means of expression – the guitar.

“GUITAR: The Instrument that Rocked the World,” is a nationally touring exhibit which, after five years of visiting museums around the country, will culminate in the creation of a national guitar museum.  It will be on view in two museums at the Springfield Museum from January 18 through April 21, 2013.

This fully immersive exhibition allows visitors to interact with the guitar from a historical perspective, learn about its evolution and design, discover the music that guitars have helped to create, and understand the guitar’s role as an agent of personal freedom, social change, and expression. Featuring guitars from greats like Steve Vai, Johnny Winter, and others, the exhibition includes more than 60 instruments – from the rare and antique to the wildly popular and innovative. There’s even the world’s largest playable guitar (over 43 feet long!), along with performance video and audio, hands-on interactives, touch screens, and photographs.

The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum houses an exhibit made up of guitars of all shapes and sizes from all over the world, illustrating the evolution of the instrument across cultures and throughout history.  The exhibit also includes examples of early relatives of the guitar, including stringed instruments from Africa and Asia.

The Wood Museum of History is housing the second half of the exhibit, which details the modern history of guitar.  The introduction of electric guitars into the music world drastically changed the instrument’s role in music, as well as the way in which guitars can be played.  The second part of this exhibit includes many different modern guitars, including some pretty outlandish ones, like an 8-necked electric guitar and the world’s largest playable guitar (a full 43 feet long!).

A visit to the exhibits can help students of all ages learn to make cultural history meaningful, and would be a terrific supplement to music studies.  Music in almost every genre includes elements of guitar, and students can learn about the evolution of music by studying how this one important instrument has changed.

Before or after visiting the museum, families can learn about several types of guitars (and their use in music) from Grammy-nominated children’s musician, Mister G, a contributor of Hilltown Families.  Mister G’s recent vlog for Hilltown Families takes viewers straight into his studio, for a special lesson on guitars in his monthly column, “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education.”  Families can learn about the unique sound each has, and will learn about how Mister G uses each one to enhance his music.  Great for kids of all ages!

You can also check out this video to help understand the physics of the rock guitar, as illustrated by physicist Mark Lewney:


The Springfield Museums are located at 21 Edwards Street in Springfield, MA.  Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm and Sundays from 11am-5pm.  For more information, call 800-625-7738 or visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.

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.

“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.

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.

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!.

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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.

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.

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