Last week, I went to a museum with a group of kids. Actually, we go every year as part of our summer program at the library. Different kids, same museum. But each year, I’m still shocked at how much I learn about our local history, and more importantly, how interesting the whole visit is!
I must give credit to the wonderful people at the museum who put together an exciting, fresh collection each year, and then do a bang up job with their presentations. This year, it focused on 1914…the 100 year anniversary of the start of WWI. They cover everything from home life, to school, to local buildings and the people who lived here during that time. (Just a little tidbit of history for you…Roy Brown, the man who shot down the Red Baron, came from Carleton Place.) The collection even showcased some rather grim items this year—funeral selections, including hair wreaths and a professional photo of a woman with her sister at her funeral, styled sitting up with hands in her lap and eyes open.
I’m not a big history buff, but I always find these visits exciting and fascinating. It’s even better when you go with children who actually know something about what they’re looking at. My surprises this time?
- When one of the young girls showed up with her camera and took photos of everything. Everything. Clothes. Stoves. Spoons. Wagon wheels. Toasters. Her mother said she’d have to upload the photos the minute she got home so she could look at all of them. Serious girl!
- The young boy who has a particular fascination with old buildings and proceeded to tell us how you can tell an old house from a new one (a stone foundation, stone walls, and curved stone arches above the windows all point to old houses). Oh yes, and he also laughed himself silly as one of the museum presenters showed us a woman’s bustle underneath a display dress.
- When one of the boys announced with great glee that there was a naked man in one of the old photos, and “wouldn’t he be mad when he saw that they had it on display at the museum!”
- When one of the kids pointed to the photo of the dead woman and her sister, proclaiming she looked like a zombie. Were there zombies in town a long time ago?
The museum teaches me something important each year, though. It’s important to be surprised. We become so blase in our lives. Stop to look at the world in a different way. See it through the eyes of a child. See it in your ancestor’s eyes. There are many great things going on around us if we only stop to let them in. I guarantee it will help you with your writing…to begin looking through a character’s eyes in a fresh way. Try it.
What has surprised you lately?