As the global coronavirus pandemic steers lock-downs well into summer, several museums and cultural institutions in the USA are organizing digital field trips for young minds, many of which are all-accessible and free of cost.
As soon as quarantine began for the States, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan initiated a themed daily series called CMOM at Home – from “Magical Monday” to “Surprise Sunday” – providing related projects and videos. Their selections now include instructions to do a dinosaur march with musician Laurie Berkner and saying hello in different languages. “We’re showing the world to children every day – different ways of cooking or dancing or talking,” said the museum’s deputy director for education and exhibitions, Leslie Bushara. On June 28, CMOM at Home celebrated pride month with the band Queer Kids and a rainbow-wand art project. In a later episode with artist Delano Dunn, children explored racial identity, informed Bushara.
On July 28, the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling of Manhattan (in response to the racial attacks by white mobs on black residents in Illinois) is scheduled to commemorate one of the very first civil rights marches, the Silent Protest Parade of 1917, with their virtual Children’s Art Exhibition for Justice. As reported by Laurel Graeber of The New York Times, the event will incorporate a video history of the march along with works by children, spoken-word pieces, and art collaborations by preteens and teenagers and famed artist Dionis Ortiz.
The Children’s Museums of the Arts is offering online resources regarding conversations around racial injustice along with its week-long Online Summer Art Colony Camps, which offers free videos on art lessons, craft projects, and storybook readings.
On June 29 the Museum of Modern Art set up Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Family Art Lab at Home to offer a series of creative prompts and videos based on the museum’s collection.
The Kids Art Challenge, by the Whitney Museum of American Art, began in April and still continues to add six art prompts every two weeks. “We tried for a mix of old favorites, like Calder’s ‘Circus,’ as well as newer works,” said Heather Maxson, the director of the school, and of youth, and family programs, at Whitney. The museum also offers painter Edward Hopper’s art in the form of downloadable coloring images. Beginning July 6, Whitney Summer Studio will be a six-week program of free-of-cost forty-minute art classes on Zoom with a family session every Saturday – “We’re going to work on ways to connect families that are separated by distance,” said Maxson.
Along similar lines, the Guggenheim Museum has created its interactive Family Tours at Home for select Saturdays of the summer. The museum has also turned its annual show of New York City’s student artwork, A Year With Children 2020 into an e-book. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Massachusetts is offering a virtual exhibition featuring twenty-one children’s book illustrators.
HISTORY AND CULTURE MUSEUMS
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, and its National Museum of the American Indian, in Manhattan and Washington are offering online material with regards to America’s history with racism. The former museum’s web portal, Talking About Race, is aimed at easing difficult conversations around racism, prejudice, and discrimination. “We talk a lot about the danger of silence,” explained the museum’s director of teaching and learning, Candra Flanagan. “When we’re silent, it forces kids to figure things out on their own.” The museum’s online programs also include a Juneteenth celebration to mark the end of slavery in the US. Beginning August 3; they will host Young Historians Institute: The Virtual Remix for high school students to explore the African-American experience during the Revolutionary era.
New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage — a Living Memorial to the Holocaust is providing online resources to introduce young children to the sensitive and devastating history. One highlight of the museum, the HBO documentary “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” offers a look into the relationship between a child and a Holocaust survivor.
The Tenement Museum in the state is offering virtual visits to the past using actors to portray real immigrants. Children visited 1916’s New York with a Sephardic Jewish teenager, Victoria Confino who immigrated from Kastoria (a city that is a part of modern-day Greece). Similarly, on July 8, the program Building a Community will be using audio and visual history to introduce the Puerto Rican Saez Valez family into the 1950s’ New York.
The National Children’s Museum in Washington recently started a monthly podcast called the STEAM Daydream. Its first episode, Health Science Heroes, focuses on global diseases and the anxieties induced. The Exploratorium in San Francisco is offering Viruses and Us, a compilation of online videos and activities. The New York Hall of Science is offering online resources including a coronavirus exhibition, available in English and Spanish as well as Transmissions: Gone Viral, an immersive interactive graphic novel inspired by the 1999 West Nile outbreak.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is offering Virtual Astronomy Live every month. The program offers opportunities to meet astronauts along with multiple aviation and space-themed programs. The American Museum of Natural History offers virtual adventures including YouTube watch parties like Field Trip: Mapping the Universe.
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