Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Children's Museum At The Perkins House - II

This is another follow-up article, this time looking back at the Children's Museum five years after the initial entry. Reading about the collection, I have to wonder what happened to it all. The only item that sounds familiar to me is the narwhal's tusk. I'm pretty sure I can remember it sitting on a wall, perhaps over a doorway. Does the organization still have any of it, or did they dump it all? It's hard for me to imagine that boxes still exist filled with musty dolls, stuffed animals and mineral collections. The powers that be would have had no interest in such things when they "improved" the museum years later.

Boston Daily Globe Mar 2, 1919

This Museum The Children's Own. Started a Few Years Ago in One Room at Jamaica Pond, It Now Fills a Whole Building - Learning Natural Science Here Becomes Play - About 65,000 Visitors a Year.

The camouflage used in the recent world's war was astonishing to most people, yet it has been used for many centuries by animals. Many of the school children of Boston have learned this from visits to the Children's Museum of Boston, a toy institution in Olmstead Park, on the shores of Jamaica Pond, in Jamaica Plain.

The Children's Museum was established in 1914 to educate the children of Boston and vicinity in the natural sciences, and to promote their love of nature and their interest in science. It is kept going by contributions of money and exhibits given by friends of the children and has grown in five years from one room in a park department building to include the whole building of six rooms and soon must find more room for its rapidly increasing exhibits.

Miss Delia J. Griffin is the director of the delightful educational house for children and the Board of Directors is made up of teachers, professional men and scientists. It is a matter of the greatest pride that practically all of the exhibits have been given or loaned by museums and private individuals, and that eminent geologists, botanists and natural historians have volunteered their services to give lectures to the children on subjects on which they are recognized authorities.

While the museum is more generally used by the children living nearby, an effort is made to attract the young people from all over the city. To get there from the Park-st Subway take a South Huntington-av car to Perkins st and then walk west to Olmstead Park. From the Dudley-st Elevated take a Jamaica Plain car to Moraine st and walk west.

Day after day children throng the Museum and on Saturdays and in vacation time there is standing room only and very little of that.

The lower floor of the building is given over to an exhibit of natural history, and there are cases after cases of well-grouped and placarded prehistoric animals, animals of more modern age, shells, sea corals, birds and minerals.

[description of insect collection]

The Museum Game is an interesting mystery, and one started in the Museum very recently. It is played for an hour every Tuesday and Friday and many children flock to the museum just for this. Each child is given a card, each one different, but one of which reads as follows: "The ______ is a furred animal with a bill like a duck and has webbed feet. Find it." The child takes the card and walks about the cases until she or he has discovered the animal; when it is discovered, the delight of the child is very obvious.

On the lower floor are two flower tables which bare flowers or twigs or evergreens, according to the season. Just now junipers, cedars, pine, spruce and evergreens of all kinds are shown. Later, twigs will be shown and, after watching the forcing of buds and blossoms and leaves, the children are taken out of doors and allowed to examine and watch the same game of nature on trees and plants.

The children do a great deal in helping to keep these tables supplied. One table last Christmas was supplied with all greens - holly, hemlock, laurel, club moss and partridge berries.

Dolls of Many Countries

On the upper floor of the museum are various exhibits that appeal to the childish mind. In one case is a collection of dolls, dressed in the native costumes of various countries of South America and Europe. Then there is a model of an old New England doll. It is wooden and painted. There is also an old doll, over 100 years old, with a head of hard rubber, from South America. There is a wax doll made by the Mountain Indians of Columbia, South America. It is marvelously done. There is a doll's bonnet and a trunk which was made in 1825.

In the Philippine case is an exhibit of odd weapons, some native rugs, feather headdresses of the tribes, etc. In the Japanese collection are dolls, crockery and quilts, the star of the collection being O Hara San (Honorable Flower Maiden) which is often used by Miss Griffin to weave stories about to the children.

The China case contains exhibits of chairs, tables, dishes, and dolls, and the children, Miss Griffin says, go from the Japanese case with no chairs and tables to the China case showing those house-hold articles, and exclaim on their discovered mode of life of these two different races, which most children suppose, were practically the same in their mode of living.

From Greenland are shown models of sledges, some skin boots, wearing apparel, a walrus skin boat, walrus trunks, narwhal horn and other curious objects. On these objects no less distinguished persons than Admiral Peary and Donald McMillan have lectured to the children while they sat around on their tiny camp chairs and listened with their eyes on the very objects lectured about.

Other cases are filled with interesting objects selected with a view to childish interest, from the South Sea Islands, Egypt and many other foreign places.

Lectures for Grownups, Too

Miss Griffin says the children are more frank in the museum and with the museum attendants than in school or even at home. They are free in the museum and are taught to consider it their own place to learn and be entertained.

"Many of the articles from foreign climes," she says, "are given to the museum by mothers or fathers of boys who have travelled and, perhaps, have passed out of life on foreign shores. The objects are saved for a time and then are turned over to us as being of special interest to children."

The lectures at the museum supplement the exhibits and are either given in the class room or with the children grouped about the exhibits. On Sunday afternoons there is a lecture given by Miss Griffin or some other lecturer which is attended by the mothers and fathers as well as the children.

Teachers of the public schools send their children to hear the lectures. They come in classes and Miss Griffing, with the aid of the School Committee's list of the courses of study for the various grades, takes care to be ready to lecture to these classes on the very subject that they have been studying in the schools. The number of lectures given last year was 450, which will be much increased this year. The average attendance of children is 150, or about 65,000 a year.

Club Work Important

The club work of the Museum is an important phase. There is the Industries Club, composed of boys and girls of 16 or so. It was established when the children were younger and now contains many charter members. The club is run entirely by the young people and they give up their Saturday afternoons to attend the studies. There are 14 to 16 members of this club. A third grade high school boy is president, and this year the subject of the "Story of the World" is being taken up. Mrs Robert W. Sayles now lectures before this club.

On the third floor is a small room, the meeting place of a club of younger members called the Sons of Nature; and there is also the Kettlehole club. There is a girl's club which meets in the Summer for the study of flowers and birds. Then there is the Busy Bee club of little chaps, which makes the study of insects a specialty.

In one room of the museum there has been started an industries exhibit. Already there is a case filled with shoes, belting and other things made of leather. Cotton manufacturing is also gone into, and other exhibits are expected to be added soon.

There is a good-sized library filled with tiny chairs around a large table and the walls are filled with shelves or books for the children. No fiction is kept, but books on all kinds of instructive subjects for children are at the call of many children are at the call of the many children who roam through the rooms of their "own museum."

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