Our region is brimming with diverse museums that educate, entertain and enhance a child’s understanding of culture. Now that parents are looking for indoor activities again, we catch up with what’s going on at two fascinating local museums that offer family-friendly programming.
Located in the heart of Tacoma’s Museum District, the Museum of Glass is a one-of-a-kind art encounter. Visitors can experience art in action by observing glass artists who work daily in the museum’s hot shop. “It’s a rare experience to see hot glass transformed into a piece of art,” says education program manager Ryan Branchini. “It’s not every day that you see artists working in their medium right in front of you.”
Due to the fragility of the artwork, there isn’t a tactile element to most exhibits, but the museum provides many on-site programs and activities that familiarize kids with glass and its properties. Kids 12 and younger can participate in the design process through Kids Design Glass. This program gives children a chance to create and submit an original drawing. Each month, the hot shop team selects one drawing and brings it to life. Family and friends are invited to watch the artist transform the drawing into art, and the child gets to take home a priceless souvenir: her signature art piece.
Budding artists can also explore the experimental studio. The studio hosts a resident artist each month who leads a hands-on project. “The theme and project are continually changing,” says Branchini. “You’ll never have the same experience.”
The museum hosts its popular family day on the second Saturday of each month. “The goal of family day is to make the artwork more accessible to a younger audience through art projects, storytellers and even a little bit of theater,” says Branchini. “We want to show how multifaceted art can be.”
In addition to family days, the museum hosts “Illuminated Traditions,” an ongoing showcase of cultural holidays from around the world. “We use these celebrations to show how different communities celebrate the holiday season.” Music, crafts and performers introduce children to cultures around the globe.
Discovering our roots
Step back in time as you enter the historic Lord Mansion, home to the State Capital Museum in Olympia. Located just seven blocks south of the Capitol building, the museum provides an opportunity to explore the history of our great state. “We have exhibits that highlight and emphasize historical themes in Washington’s past,” says museum manager Susan Rohrer. “Children get to experience their history in a beautiful mansion setting in one of the grandest homes in Western Washington.”
The exhibits are geared toward children ages 6 and older, but the museum periodically offers programs for the preschool population. “Children are never too young to learn about our state’s history and culture,” Rohrer explains.
The permanent main exhibit highlights how Olympia became the capital of Washington, giving visitors an understanding of the capital city beginning in its early territorial days. The museum provides children with an interactive learning booklet that features exhibit information in an age-appropriate format.
A popular exhibit with young visitors is the re-created Native American longhouse. This display allows children to explore the house and handle traditional artifacts, including masks, drums and paddles. “It’s an excellent opportunity for children to interpret Western Washington’s Native American culture,” says Rohrer.
Located on the museum grounds is the Delbert McBride Ethnobotanical Garden, another favorite place to explore. The garden features a selection of Northwest flowers, shrubs and trees. “The entire experience — our garden and exhibits — give you a nice insight into the native culture of our region.”
The museum is preparing to launch a new exhibit titled “Sustaining Change on the American Farm: An Artist/Farmer Exchange.” The display will feature artwork produced by artists who spent a year living on award-winning conservation farms. It opens on Nov. 14 with a reception from 6-8 p.m. (suggested donation $1) that features bluegrass music, children’s activities, organic food and cooking demonstrations. “Kids will get a kick out of it,” says Rohrer. “There is some very unusual art and there will be kid-friendly gallery projects focused on agriculture and sustainability.”
Abbey McGee is an Everett-based freelance writer and mother of two preschoolers.
Museum of Glass
1801 Dock St., Tacoma
Hours through Memorial Day: Wednesday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sunday noon–5 p.m.
Free admission and extended hours offered on the third Thursday of each month.
$4-$10, ages 6 and younger are free.
State Capital Museum and Outreach Center
211 S.W. 21st Ave., Olympia
Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
$1–$2, ages 5 and younger are free.