Monday, June 14, 2010
Don’t Mess with the Fairy Castle! (4/23/08)
Our family codeword for the Museum of Science and Industry is "Petroleum!" announced in a voice something like a robot and something like an oily 1950's gameshow host. It sums up for me the dusty flavor of some of the museum's more outdated exhibits - like the stomach-churning (sorry for the pun) celebration of factory farms.
The museum has announced plans to revamp ninety percent of its exhibits over the next four years. What's in store for fans of the museum like us? I'm hoping the new and revamped exhibits' emphasis on science education won't be at the expense of the "industry" part. I'm fond of the scattershot collections that remind me of a mad scientist's attic - a little antique circus here, a little pinball machine promoting Swiss tourism there.
I'm sure you've had the experience of trying to engage your children in an experience that enchanted you as a child only to have them whine, "are we done yet?" or find more magic in the cafeteria bendy straws.
I was obsessed with Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle as a girl. A glamorous Hollywood star (albeit one I'd never heard of ... but she had one brown eye and one blue!) who built a doll-sized castle with murals painted by Walt Disney! Thrilling. I pored over a commemorative booklet we bought at the museum, memorizing each delicious bit - the weeping willow tree that cried real tears, a Bible the size of a fingernail. I loved the scratchy audio narration describing a fairy dancing up the twisty staircase.
On a visit to the MSI about a month ago, we found the castle in a dim room around the corner from Foucault's Pendulum. Seeing it as an adult and as a parent, I had a feeling its intricate beauty behind Plexiglas probably wouldn't stand up to the interactive and brightly colored thrills of the flashy kids museums my girls are used to.
"Look, Mia! There are the three little bears' chairs!"
"Where? I can't see them. Pick me up!"
"See, down in front, sitting on the head of a pin."
"Oh, I think I see it. Can we go back to the pinball machine?"