An outraged old lady vigorously made her way through a group of seven-year-olds, trying to get to a place where she could file a complaint, a protest, express her discontent. The elderly lady was an organizer. With a capital “O” and perhaps an oversized “I”. She organized a museum tour for a group of students of the Third Age University and wanted them to feel comfortable, which is understandable.
Meanwhile, there were definitely far too many children in the museum. What’s more, every year their numbers are increasing. Children are not comfortable. They make lots of mess and lots of noise. They keep asking about things. They want to know why the woman in the painting is naked, what the name of a dog accompanying a certain actress was, why a well-known artist did not sleep with his wife (the bed was far too narrow), if the chamber pot of a certain Krakow painter was preserved (since a cabinet situated in his bedroom, which contained this object, is empty), why a painting is unfinished, why the clocks in the Gallery of Decorative Arts don’t work (exactly, why?), how much golden frames cost and if you can sell them, what is in the attic of the museum, what varnish smells like, how do you know which 18th-century slipper is left and which is right, where the toilet is…
None of these questions can be left unanswered. Such an “unanswered” question can cause a lot of confusion. It begins to live its own life, grows, rolls through museum galleries, surrounded with accidentally found scraps of information, losing its grace with age, and then suddenly pops out of the mouth of an adult visitor as some kind of worldly wisdom.
That’s the trouble with children in a museum …
Children are honest and direct. They ask questions that adults are too embarrassed to ask. Some adults want to channel it and bring kids to the museum. Not only one! Very often it’s their own two kids plus a neighbour’s little son. Or a preschool friend and her younger brother. Dozens of little, noisy question marks occupy museum galleries on Saturdays and Sundays. They leave them as exclamation marks – colourful, sometimes surprised, often dirty with paint and glue.
Well, so why can’t children visit the museum peacefully, calmly analyse the meanings of paintings, dispassionately decipher the messages contained in short and factual captions? Why can’t they just remember it – once and for all – without all these paints, crayons, glue, coloured paper, without trying on crinolines, painting masks, sniffing the palletes? Why do they have to touch, check if it’s hard or soft, smooth or rough, warm or cold? Is it really so hard to understand what “texture” means without organoleptically challenging the words on the guide?
– This place is full of kids! But they are too small, they won’t understand anything, it makes no sense to bring such young children to the museum, they have their playgrounds, balls, some other places … – the old lady ended her complaint with some good advice.
This place is full of kids! And it makes me really happy!
Jagoda Gumińska-Oleksy – coordinator of educational activities for children and families, a trained artist and educator, long-time employee of the Education Department of the NMK. She likes to listen to what children say while they draw.