Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One of My Favorite Museum Stories

It has been a bit since I last posted. Work, paper writing, and holiday prep have taken up my time, but not diminished my interest in all things history related (hence the papers, on the topic of history museums no less!) This post was actually something I wrote up for an assignment this semester, about moving museum experiences. It is also one of my favorite museum stories. I'll have to write up the 4th grade story later, but for the mean time, enjoy!

My sophomore year of college I was not terribly interested in history, I was a theatre major, taking classes in as many different departments and disciplines as I could get away with. A favorite professor (in the Mathematics department) who knew I was around over winter break invited me along on a trip to Old Sturbridge Village with a visiting professor who would be teaching a class in historical theatre in the spring. So the Math professor (from Tennessee) the visiting professor from California, and I, who had been to plenty of New England museums but never OSV, went on the self-guided tour.

In back of one of the houses was a shed that we wandered into, full of firewood and animal feed. One of the professors looked up and wondered about the round metal thing hanging from a rafter. I told her it was a punched tin lantern and was used in barns because the holes made sure the wind did not blow it out, nor would it light the barn on fire if knocked over. I knew all this because I’d made punched tin lanterns in Girl Scouts many years before.

The next house we entered by the front door and headed straight up the stairs that were jammed into the small space in the front hall. The other professor proclaimed that these were rather cramped, and I piped up again and explained that the chimney was in the middle of the house, so it was located right behind the stairs and there was no more room to spread out. I then had to assure the professors that I really had never been to this museum before but that many old houses, including the one I grew up in were the same.

I learned quite a bit on that tour of Old Sturbridge Village, there was and still is plenty of history that I do not know, but I also learned that my parents, many museum visits, even scout activities had been conspiring over the years to teach me without my even realizing it. While that trip to OSV was particularly memorable, it was the accumulation of a lifetime of museum visits that added up to a life changing experience. It seemed I had developed a love for history that had snuck up on me, and it seemed only natural to try to help others achieve the same through activities, field trips, and experiences rather than through text books, and classroom lessons.Photo behind the farm at Old Sturbridge Village taken by Alena Shumway, April 2008.

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