Exploring Tartans

dscn7646Throughout the recent holidays, Museum Educators have been asking visitors and staff what they do with their families and friends this time of year. As a family that takes pride in our Scots-Irish American heritage, my answer is that we come together to eat mashed potatoes, pull British crackers, and wear Scottish tartan. When I share this, there are often many follow up questions. What is tartan? Why is the shade you’re wearing different from other shades? Here are some answers to these questions. Continue reading

Challenges with Cultural Exhibits: Native Voices

nickThe following post is by our Native Voices Exhibit Mentor, Nickolas Nelson:

My name is Nickolas Nelson and I am an Exhibit Mentor for the Native Voices exhibit. My time as a mentor allows the opportunity for me to witness first-hand the fun and exciting adventures that Native Voices has to offer. However, working with such an exhibit does have its challenges.

In Native Voices, we want to give families insight into how a group of people previously lived, but to also provide information as to their contemporary lifestyles, belief systems, customs, and ideals. This is challenging because a majority of information about indigenous cultures is based on stereotypes and misinformation. For example, many books and other publications continue to place indigenous people in the past leading audiences to disconnect indigenous peoples from contemporary culture. The goal of Native Voices is to dispel this misinformation. Once the stigma and stereotypes have been explained away, true growth and knowledge can ensue. Continue reading

Sharing and Caring: Ramadan Themes in Action

Ramadan 2016 1Can you go without food or water from dawn to sunset? This is exactly what many Muslim adults do during Ramadan. More importantly, Muslims try to experience what the less fortunate go through every day and practice good habits and deeds, such as giving more to charity and practicing self-control. Fasting is usually broken with water, dates or milk before the start of the evening meal, called iftar.

Ramadan began on Sunday, June 5th and came to an end on Tuesday, July 5th, 2016. The next day, on Wednesday, July 6th many children and families woke up to Eid Al Fitr (feast of breaking the fast) to put on their finest clothes and many girls around the world washed their hands to reveal the beautiful design dyed with henna. On the morning of Eid, many people go to the mosque for prayer, as well as visiting friends and families. Continue reading

How to Have a Grand St. Patrick’s Day: Tips to Celebrating Respectfully

Shamrock 1-1 sm sqMany people associate contemporary St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as an Irish tradition. However the St. Patrick’s Day we know today is an American creation. In the 1800s, great numbers of Irish immigrants came to America to start a new life, but many American communities found it difficult to accept their overwhelming numbers. As a result, St. Patrick’s Day became an important day for Irish-Americans to gather together and celebrate their culture. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day continued to focus on religious aspects of the holiday. It is only recently that Ireland has followed with a three-day festival full of music, parades, and treasure hunts. Continue reading

Indigenous Halloween Costumes: Empowering or Problematic?

4046By Sara Tess Neumann and Meghan Evans

Recent issues have arisen with the lack of career costumes available for girls, or the prevalence of sexualized costumes for young children. Empowering costumes are challenging to find and a number of websites recommend dressing in Native American costumes. However, many Indigenous communities disagree. This has been brought to the forefront here at Boston Children’s Museum with the reopening of our exhibit Native Voices. Begun in 2010 and developed with an Indigenous Advisory Board from all of the tribes represented, it became clear that of the many goals of this exhibit the most prominent include dispelling stereotypes, correcting misinformation, and conveying that contemporary tribes continue to revive and evolve their cultural traditions, values, and communities. Continue reading

More than 101 Plates

ramadan 1bRamadan came and went but we hope its meaningful activities at the museum will stay with our visitors.  This year visitors took part in our Iftar feast for those in need, created lanterns that many children in the Middle East carry during the nights of Ramadan and learned about the moon phases and their relation to Ramadan.  At the beginning of Ramadan families pour into the streets seeking the new moon; when they see the first sliver, Ramadan has begun.

Ramadan is an important month for Muslims all over the world.  During this time Muslims give up both food and water from dawn to sunset and try to focus on self-improvement and discipline.  Similarly, an important component of Ramadan is helping those in need and giving more to your community.  During our Ramadan activities we displayed traditional clothes from Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as prayer mats.  A quiet, welcoming reading area with children’s stories about Ramadan encouraged families to sit down and read together. Continue reading

A Space for Gathering and Sharing

WishTreeMarch2011On March 11, 2011, a large earthquake and tsunami hit the eastern side of the Tohoku region of Japan and destroyed much of the area causing a confirmed death toll of approximately 16,000.  More than 2,600 are still missing. When it happened, one of the things that we experienced at our Japanese House exhibit, an authentic house from Kyoto, Japan, was that it became a place for the gathering and sharing of thoughts and prayers of our visitors. Soon after March 11, 2011, the visitation number to the Japanese House visibly increased.  Every day we heard adults talking to their kids about what was happening in Japan and teaching them about a sense of respect and empathy for those who were suffering, in a way that they would understand.  On March 12th, we placed a “wish tree” by the exhibit, and the visitors’ response was very strong. Mao, our intern at the time, organized her schedule several times each day to keep up with and take care of the tree, as many more visitors wanted to add their comments than we had expected. Some visitors even knocked on our office door wondering if there were more comment cards, because previous visitors had used all that we put out. In March 2011, we saw the Japanese House become a participatory place for the entire community.  Continue reading