2016-12-15 / Editorial

Children are welcome here

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By Leslie Rounds

There was a time, not so very long ago, when most museums did not welcome children. It wasn’t publicized, of course. At least not too many places dared to announce it, but it was a sad and rather ugly truth. At some institutions things haven’t changed much. I was recently at a somewhat larger museum where I watched a security guard practically stalking a father and his three youngsters, following them from room to room – just in case, I guess. We want you to know that not only are children invited to the Saco Museum; they are so welcome that I think the Festival of Trees, our current exhibit, may have been designed with them primarily in mind.

Who but a child could best appreciate a 10-foot-tall Christmas tree (that makes it “ginormous,” by the way) that a few unfortunate elves have somehow fallen into and almost completely disappeared? Only their stripedsock clad legs are visible. Who but a child could feel the special wonder of a Christmas tree flipped upside down surrounded by gifts that appear to be floating in mid-air around it? Who but a child will fully enjoy a remarkable winter scene filled with tiny glass houses (and people) or fully savor a delicious gingerbread collection? While I agree that all of this will also amaze and engage adult audiences, most of us still recall the very special appreciation that kids have for glitz, glitter and gaiety.

What will children learn along the way? That might be up to you adults that bring them to enjoy the Festival of Trees. You can point out the enormous amount of work that went into this exhibition and the fabulous attention to every minute detail. You can remind them that all of this was created by volunteers, giving back to the community, and helping to support an important community resource, the Dyer Library and Saco Museum, in the process. You can draw their attention to the value this kind of effort provides and remind them that giving back can actually be a sleigh-load of fun, too. And finally, in this pristine and joyous setting, you can talk about the true meaning of Christmas, beyond the gifts under the Christmas tree and the orgy of getting that most kids associate with this holiday.

There are still probably a fair number of people in Saco who have not set foot in the Saco Museum for many years, since an unhappy childhood encounter with the place. What did they learn then? Perhaps they left feeling that museums were only for adults, or that those types of places could not possibly be fun. This is not how we want the next generation to regard us. Now is the time to come back and experience the myriad aspects of the Saco Museum and see it in a new way: through children’s eyes. As one Burns School visitor commented last week after visiting the Festival on a field trip, “I love it. Can I come back here every day?”

Leslie Rounds is executive director of Dyer Library/ Saco Museum.

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