Museum Access for Kids
“You see, there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood. In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum.”
-Michelle Obama, May 2015 at The Whitney Museum in New York
In full disclosure, I love the Whitney. I recently went for Mother’s Day with my daughter. I also love museums and I believe access to museums has long been limited to those of means. Exploring museums as a mother has been an essential pastime that I get to enjoy with my daughter. It’s a tradition I adopted as an adult that I want to pass down to my child early.
My love of museums started early. When I was in elementary school, museums were reserved for special occasion field trips. And even then, we were limited to the children’s museum and special exhibits that rarely showcased urban lives as the centerpiece. Accessing museums required my parents’ permission, which wasn’t hard, but also their money. Because of that, I’m sure we were limited, in my inner city school to the museums that offered discounts for students.
When I stepped into the halls of the museum, my 8-year-old self would be amazed. Many times the museum exhibits was my first introduction to a different worldview. The museum, full of paintings I couldn’t understand, and dinosaur bones I could touch, was apart of helping me reimagine the world. It provided me with visuals for the things I couldn’t yet imagine in the books I read in school. The museums, as I reflect on my experiences, were part responsible leisure and part quench for my thirst of learning. Every time I stepped in, I had this unexplainable love.
Just like my love of cheesecake, my love for museums grew from deprivation. Because I couldn’t to the museum on weekends or outside of a school field trip, I fantasized about them even more. That love of museums was only heightened when I moved to New York City, where museums were everywhere and at every turn. Not only do we have some of the world’s best museums, we also have “suggested prices” at American Museum of Natural History, the Studio Museum of Harlem and the Brooklyn Museum.
Museum access for children is so vital. As a mom, it’s a time of bonding and learning. It’s a chance to talk through your child’s intellectual curiosity. It’s an opportunity to encourage creativity.