275 - A Night at the Museum
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN
Andrew Ackerman is the executive director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, or “CMOM.” He met with Speak Up and explained how the Museum was set up:
Andrew Ackerman (Standard American accent):
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan was created in 1974 and it was created by parents of the City of New York. At that time, the City was in a financial crisis and all of the arts were being taken out of the school: no painting, no music. So the Children’s Museum began as a storefront, a very small place for children and families to come to create art. In 1989 it moved to its current facility, it’s about 3,500 square metres in size, or 35,000 square feet. In order to be able to create educational exhibitions, to help children learn basic skills that they need for school, but also to learn about themselves and the world they live in, through the arts and through the sciences.
Today the Museum occupies five floors of the Tisch Building at 212 West 83rd Street. Its current exhibitions include “Adventures with Diego and Dora,” “PlayWorks and “Gods, Myths and Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece”:
These exhibitions are fun, challenging. It requires children and adults to think. It’s really creative play, but with a real purpose. There’s much here for adults to learn, not only in the exhibition about ancient Greece, but also in an exhibition that we spent three years researching about how young children learn. Children learn from the moment they’re born, so our exhibition “PlayWorks” is designed for children from six months old up to about five years. And it has language skills – it’s a great place to come to learn English with your children in fact – art, creative play.
Part of the magic of this Museum is that for children who don’t speak English, they can come play with American children and they play the language of play and they can learn together with children from all over the world and people can spend three or four hours at the Museum on a day. They may leave to go have lunch in the neighborhood at a typical New York restaurant, but the exhibitions are designed so the children can learn by listening, by looking, by touching and by moving, so that language is not that important.
According to the cult TV series Friends, New York City isn’t a great place to raise children, but the fact of the matter is that millions of people grow up there. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the “Big Apple” can offer a lot to its young residents. In addition to Central Park and its zoo, you also have the Natural History Museum, which was the inspiration for the entertaining 2006 kids’ movie, A Night at the Museum. The Museum also appeared, incidentally, in J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of American adolescence, The Catcher in the Rye (1951).
Less well known, and quite a bit younger, is the Children’s Museum of Manhattan which, as its executive director Andrew Ackerman explains in the accompanying interview (see box), was founded in the early 1970s, at a time when the City of New York City was in the midst of a deep budget crisis.
YOUR INNER CHILD
Just as New York’s Museum of Modern Art is known by its acronym, MOMA, so the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is called “CMOM.” Whether this is a play upon MOMA, or “See Mom,” given that it is Mom who is likely to take the kids there, or “C’mon,” as “Come on, let’s go the Museum,” is hard to say.
What is sure, however, is that CMOM has a splendid set of exhibits in its five-floor premises in the Tisch Building at 212 West 83rd Street. Currently, pride of place goes to a section called “Adventures with Diego and Dora,“ which is based on a popular children’s book series, and “Gods, Myths and Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece.” Andrew Ackerman says that these are also of interest to adult visitors. After all, wasn’t it another great American novelist, Tom Robbins, who once said that “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”?