Make the Most of Your Family's Museum Trip

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Use your library to make your family's museum visit an adventure
By Laura Schlereth

Museums and libraries are great cultural learning institutions for educating your family. However, how often do you combine the two for a comprehensive enlightening experience? Enhance your family’s museum trip with the resources your library has to offer.

Before the Trip

Research the museum’s exhibit topics beforehand at your library, suggests Nancy Davenport of the District of Columbia Public Library. “If you want to do research on the kind of art or artifact in a particular museum, your local library is a good place to find research at a child’s level,” she says.

The Bishop Museum in Honolulu – the state museum of cultural and natural history – understands the importance of libraries so much that it provides library services on site. Public Affairs Director Donalyn Dela Cruz says patrons can get reading recommendations from the museum’s library technicians, but you may also be able to find them at your neighborhood library. “It would definitely enhance your experience,” Dela Cruz says. Check if your local museum has reading suggestions.

After the Trip

Zach Zacharias, senior curator of education at the Museum of Arts & Sciences (MOAS) in Daytona, Florida, says visiting a library after a museum visit is “hitting all the modalities of learning.” For example, a family might really enjoy MOAS’ “Land Beneath Our Feet” exhibit that explores the geological history of Florida with displays of fossils, shells and minerals. “If they’re interested in fossils, they can come to the museum and get inspired and then go read more about it,” he says.

“Our museums, in terms of the exhibit, can only provide so much learning,” Dela Cruz says. So in order to get a deeper understanding, explore the topics further by checking out books on the subject from your local library.

Extra Tips

Make the experience exciting for your kids. “You can turn it into an adventure instead of making them feel like you’re just dragging them along,” Davenport says. She suggests having a scavenger hunt, and telling your kids to choose a few pieces they learned about in a book, such as a Van Gogh painting, and then go search for it at the museum. Or after the visit, make a project with your kids where you discuss why the artist decided to paint the painting or what kind of mood they would be in to paint something like that. “It stimulates the imagination and keeps the literacy skills going,” she says.


Some museums and libraries create partnerships that your family can benefit from.

The Chicago Public Library (CPL) offers free museum passes to 13 of Chicago’s museums and other learning facilities. Made possible by a grant from Kraft foods and through the CPL Foundation, the extremely popular Passport program allows any adult resident with a CPL library card to check out a family pass for one week. An added bonus: on its Web site, CPL provides a list of “Library Books to Extend Your Visit.”

“It’s a great program because it supports the development of Chicago’s kids,” says CPL representative Tanya King. “It enables families to go on a family outing and utilize the services the Chicago Public Library has to offer. It enables them to get out of the house and take advantage of 13 of Chicago’s world-class cultural institutions for free.” Find out if your library has a similar program.

Recommended Resources

Night at the Museum
By Shawn Levy; Chris Columbus; Michael Barnathan; Robert Ben Garant; and Thomas Lennon
Larry Daley has a hard time staying employed, so he applies for what thinks will be an easy job as a night shift security guard at the American Museum of Natural History. However, an ancient curse makes all the exhibits come to life at night, and Daley must learn how to manage all the chaos so he can keep his job.

Museum Trip
By Barbara Lehman
In this wordless picture book, a boy goes on a field trip to a museum, but he takes his own trip through his imagination as he envisions himself in each of the exhibits.

Music to Spy By From the International Spy Museum
Put out by the International Spy Museum, this CD features the most famous spy music ever created. Enjoy the theme music of several spy movies and TV shows, including Mission Impossible, James Bond and The Pink Panther. Inspire the adventure in your kids by making this your museum trip soundtrack!

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