In May, Chairman Bro Adams delivered introductory remarks at the Great Friend to Kids award ceremony of the Association of Children’s Museums’ annual “Interactivity” conference, which met in Indianapolis. This year, three individuals and organizations were honored for their significant positive impacts on the lives of children: civil rights pioneer Ruby Bridges, Yvonne Simons of the Anne Frank Center USA, and Jeanne White-Ginder, AIDS activist and mother of Ryan White. Ruby Bridges, Anne Frank, and Ryan White are the subjects of a NEH-funded exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, The Power of Children: Making a Difference. The exhibition incorporates artifacts, theater, and interactive elements to tell the story of three children who demonstrated in their lives the courage to meet immense challenges and make the world a better place. Through its use of historical narratives to bring powerful ideas about children’s agency to children and families, the exhibition also reveals the deep connection between children’s museum programming and the humanities.
The conference provided a forum for practitioners from children’s museums to learn about best practices in the field. One panel brought together four leaders from the world of children’s museums to discuss how such institutions might incorporate humanities learning into their exhibitions and programming. Panel moderator Mike Crowther, CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, was joined by Andy Ackerman of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Jane Werner of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Jeff Patchen of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and Ellen Rosenthal of Conner Prairie Interactive History Park. Attendees heard the panel discuss the role of storytelling in bringing humanities ideas to children, how children’s museums can best present historical and cultural content, and the connection between the humanities and play. The takeaway message was that even young children can understand humanities ideas that foster empathy, and that the humanities have a robust presence in children’s museums around the country.