Kolie Swavely is the Elvira Growdon Intern for Collections Management and Curatorial Practice for summer 2017. Her work at Boston Children’s Museum has focused on cataloging and digitizing the Polynesian collection and finding cultural materials that connect to stories, myths, and legends around the world. She is completing a graduate certificate in Museum Studies at Tufts University.
Hello! Or, as the greeting goes in New Zealand, Kia Ora!
As the current E. Growdon Intern at Boston Children’s Museum, I work within collection’s storage, a place that some could compare to the likes of a secret garden. Now, imagine that garden filled not with flowers, but with ethnographic artifacts and pieces of cultural history collected by world travelers over 100 years ago!
As museums continue to care for their collections, ensuring that each and every piece of art and artifact is in the best condition possible, it is easy to lose track of the stories each one tells, and has yet to tell. Like a fish to a glittering lure, there is always an artifact that catches your eye, beckoning to be explored and revived. Here at Boston Children’s Museum, I myself have been hooked. While carefully documenting objects, I continue to uncover many that speak to me; and this fishhook I present today definitely speaks loudly of its cultural origin, the Māori of New Zealand.
Fishhook/ “Matau” Culture of Origin: Māori of New Zealand. Object ID: OS 78. Collection: Oceania; Polynesia. Materials: Bone, Abalone, Wood, Sennit Cord. Dimensions: 1.125” x 0.625” x 3.75”. Collected by Miss Lucy M. Prince, 1898. Donated, 1915
This beautiful fishhook (above) was donated to Boston Children’s Museum in 1915, Continue reading
I invite you to join us for our month-long celebration of Black History Month. Boston Children’s Museum has been committed to welcoming and engaging all children and families for over 103 years, and has celebrated Black History Month for many decades.
And this is fitting, not only because of the Museum’s mission to warmly welcome children and families of all races, ethnicities, and religions, but because of the importance of the city of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the struggle for equality and freedom and against segregation and discrimination. As told in the lovely book, The First Step, by Susan Goodman, who will visit the Museum during this month, the first step in desegregating schools took place right here in Boston when Benjamin Roberts filed a lawsuit on behalf of his little daughter who was barred from attending her neighborhood school because she was black (Roberts vs. City of Boston, 1848). In 1855, Boston became the first major US city to integrate its schools, and Senator Charles Sumner, a Boston lawyer and anti-slavery activist, filed a bill that made the Civil Rights Act into law in 1875, a law that led to the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. Right here in the African Meeting House on Joy Street on Beacon Hill, Frederick Douglas made his impassioned speeches, and William Lloyd Garrison founded the New England Antislavery Society in 1832, and published The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper, for 35 years. Continue reading
The 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
Can 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
Many 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
By 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
Ramadan 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
For Family Fest I had the pleasure of working with four different music presenters all in one day! They were a fabulously diverse line-up and exemplified the aspects of music-making that we try to emphasize in our regular performing arts programming. I recently posted about Tony Fonseca’s program and the importance of musical experimentation. The Boston City-wide String Orchestra, on the other hand, inspired the audience by encouraging observation.
One of our modes of performing arts programming at BCM is “kids performing for kids”. This mode has two purposes: to provide a venue and performance opportunity for Boston area youth; and to expose visiting families to the opportunities for artistic engagement that Boston has to offer. Continue reading
On 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
… moo. At least, she does if you live in the U.S.A. or other English-speaking nations. Parahs in Israel can easily communicate in Hebrew, as they also say moo. If you live in France, your Vache says Meuh; in Japan, the Ushi says mo-mo, and her cousin the Ghwaa in Afghanistan says moo-moo. The German Kuh prefers to say simply: mu. No matter how you spell the word, cows speak a pretty universal language.
Learning this was actually a happy accident for me – a teachable moment I earned myself when I was researching cows and their related objects for a collections presentation. Cows are readily recognized by children – even those just beginning to recognize animal names and noises know cows say “moo”. I thought it would be fun to present each cow object with its native name and voice. Continue reading