Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why We Do What We Do

We welcomed a group of local fourth grade students to the Museum today. Here's Wayne, one of our veteran tour guides, answering a question about what an item in the kitchen was used for. Along with our other guides, Wayne has led dozens of school tours over the years, though not so many this year -- we have noticed a definite decrease in the number of kids coming through the Museum this month, when we are usually booked solid with school groups.

This Victorian kitchen is so interesting to children. There's no refrigerator or microwave, there are no counter tops and only a few cupboards. Kids can't identify the wood-burning stove -- in fact, the only thing they recognize in this room is the (modern) sink in the corner. And the fascination extends to the Museum as a whole. Children are challenged to imagine what life would be like without electricity: no computers, no TV, no iPods, no videogames.

A.N. Bush was two years old in 1860 when his family moved to this property outside of the city limits. As a youth he tracked foxes in the South Salem hills and took one bath a week in the washtub beside the kitchen stove. In his lifetime, A.N. saw the invention of the light bulb, the telephone, the phonograph, the radio, and television. Transportation moved from riverboats to railroads to automobiles to airplanes. In his lifetime, the population of Salem grew from less than 1,000 people in 1860 to more than 43,000 people by 1950. That's a lot of change!

We can tell kids that things haven't always been the way they are now, but it's a lot easier for them to grasp the concept when they're experiencing it first-hand in, let's say, an old-fashioned kitchen. And that's why we do what we do.

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