It is almost time for the second Saturday of our Children’s Exploration Series at the museum, coming up on February 10th at 2:00 pm. This Saturday’s program is one of my personal favorites: History Mysteries. “History Mysteries” is a game of clues in which the audience attempts to figure what objects are and what they were used for. Each time I run this program, I am surprised by how children respond. Sometimes an object will be recognized right away, from their grandparent’s house or a museum experience, and other times I get some very creative answers, which never fail to make me smile at their originality. Occasionally, I manage to stump the entire crowd, and this is where the fun begins. Looking closely at an object, trying to identify any clues, and guessing what they might mean. There is one piece I always share from my personal collection, which almost always leaves everyone scratching their heads. Even after this object’s identity is revealed, people still want to know, “but why?” Several objects used during this program are from the museum’s hands-on collection, meaning families can touch and try out how the object functions. The program even features a few simple make-and-takes that children will be able to share with friends, including a stamped wooden heart for Valentine’s Day.
In some ways our “Preserving Your Family’s Treasures” program is sort of a “History Mysteries” program for adults. My husband, Dr. Mark Janzen, Director of the Museum Studies Program at UCO, and I have run this program several times in different communities over the years. Each time is unique, as the program really develops based on who attends and what they bring. The program begins with a short overview of general tips and ideas for preserving a variety of family heirlooms at home, then we open up the floor for attendees to share their items and ask specific questions. While our focus is on how to best care for these items, people will often ask other questions related to their objects. While we never talk about the monetary value of objects, sometimes we can help answer questions about the origin or age of an object. Over the years people have brought family letters, quilts, scrapbooks and more. While the program is geared towards an adult audience, we did have two young girls attend one of our programs, each bringing an item that was important to them. One of these girls brought a 1980s prom dress from her aunt that she had used to play princess. Over time to it had started to become worn. My husband did a great job using it as an example of how balancing the care and use of an object is different in every situation. The reality of caring for your family treasures at home is that you face many of the same challenges that museums do; the more you display an object the harder it is to keep it safe. These objects are all important links to the past, which people want to be able to share. To learn more about how to balance these issues join us for our “Preserving Your Family’s Treasures” program on February 25, at 2:00 pm at the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar.
Orginally published Stillwater Newspress