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6 Kid-Friendly Museum Exhibits Your Family Will Love This Fall

Explore art, ideas and culture at kid-friendly museum exhibits around Seattle

Published on: October 11, 2018

viking helmets exhibit
Ancient viking helmets. Photo courtesy of the Nordic Museum

Somehow, museums just seem more attractive in the fall. There’s a coziness in spending a Saturday afternoon wandering brightly lit galleries while the wind blows leaves around in the rain outside.

Seattle-area families are in luck because there are terrific kid-friendly exhibits to visit this autumn. Even if museums aren’t usually your thing, at least one of these exhibits is sure to capture your family’s interest.

T. rex skull at the Burke Museum
T. rex skull at the Burke. Photo courtesy of The Burke Museum

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3: Last Chance at the Burke Museum

Where: The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle
When: Through Dec. 30, 2018
Cost: Included with admission

The Burke Museum, Washington state’s oldest public museum, is closing on Dec 31. It will reopen in a new space in late 2019. We can bet the new Burke will be a fresh and exciting experience, but for those with a bit of nostalgia for a disappearing Seattle, there’s still plenty to see and do at the old Burke during its final months.

Besides wandering its old-school exhibits of preserved animal specimens, visit the new Testing, Testing, 1-2-3: Work in Progress exhibit where you can see the behind-the-scenes work of setting up the new Burke. The highlight is watching the preparation of the Burke’s new T. rex skull unfold each day. But the exhibit also gives you a sneak peek of objects coming out of storage for display in the new museum.

During the final days of the current Burke Museum (Dec. 26–30) enjoy free admission and gallery activities for all ages.

The Vikings Begin

Where: Nordic Museum, Seattle
When: Oct. 20, 2018–April 14, 2019
Cost: $5 for Viking exhibit alone; regular admission required to visit other galleries

If you haven’t been to the new Nordic Museum, the special exhibit this fall is the perfect time to get acquainted. In May, the Nordic Heritage Museum reopened as the Nordic Museum in its new space in central Ballard, a sleek building designed as a linear “fjord.” The old exhibits exploring the Nordic-American experience are refreshed and joined by expanded stories of the Nordic region.

The next special exhibit, The Vikings Begin, will present 1000-year-old Viking artifacts on loan from Sweden. Although kids will learn that horned helmets are a myth, they will get to see authentic Viking swords and armor, as well as everyday household items from the earliest stages of the Viking era on display in the U.S. for the first time ever.

Note that this is a special exhibit requiring purchase of timed tickets; purchase online. Find out more about the Nordic Museum's best features for families.

Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India

Where: Seattle Art Museum
When: Oct. 18, 2018–Jan. 21, 2019
Cost: $5 in addition to regular admission

We’ve already identified Peacock in the Desert as an exhibition that can make kids fall in love with art, because this collection of 500 years of Indian royal treasures is particularly kid-friendly. A recreation of a royal wedding procession — complete with life-size horses and elephants — is just the beginning.

The exhibition also contains a gilt palanquin, ornate 17th-century weapons and jewelry and possibly the only remaining Indian court tent in existence. More traditional artworks like paintings and textiles feature lots of animal imagery and bright colors that are more attractive to kids than the dour portraiture of European artwork from the same period.

Upcoming family-friendly programming includes a free community opening celebration on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 18; a concert of Indian music on Saturday, Oct. 20; and a Diwali family festival on Saturday, Nov. 3; plus numerous family arts workshops throughout the exhibit.

Note that this is a special exhibition and is not included in regular museum admission. A separate, timed ticket is required for entry. Advance purchase is recommended.

Singletary_Preston Thunderbird
Preston Singletary's "Thunderbird Man (Xeitl Káa)," 2018. Photo credit: Russell Johnson

Preston Singletary: Raven and the Box of Daylight

Where: Museum of Glass, Tacoma
When: Through Sept. 2019
Cost: Included with admission

Taking kids to a glass museum sounds like the very definition of a bad idea. But keeping kids focused will be easy in the new exhibit at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. The exhibit, Raven and the Box of Daylight, immerses visitors in Tlingit culture through a collection of glass art and dynamic audio and video elements including recordings of storytellers, music and coastal sounds, amid a backdrop of shadows and projected images.

Glass artist Preston Singletary uses modern glass techniques to create pieces rooted in Tlingit culture. This exhibition recreates the Tlingit story, "Raven and the Box of Daylight," which tells how Raven transformed the world by bringing light to people. For an added dimension, listen to music by Singletary’s Tlingit-language jazz band Khu.eex’ before visiting the exhibit.

Join the museum's Family Day on Saturday, Oct. 13, for special activities related to Raven and the Box of Daylight.

Wham! Bam! Pow! Cartoons, Turbans & Confronting Hate

Where: Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Seattle
When: Through Feb. 24, 2019
Cost: Included with admission

The Wing is not always the most kid-friendly museum in Seattle. But from Worlds Beyond Here, which celebrates Asian-American contributions to sci-fi, to the kidPLACE exhibit highlighting Asians and Asian-Americans in space technology, several Wing Luke Museum exhibits this fall touch on topics close to kids’ hearts.

Perhaps the most charming is Wham! Bam! Pow!, a small exhibit about cartoonist Vishavjit Singh, who responded to the surge of racism he experienced after 9/11 by creating stereotype-busting cartoons that portray Sikh-American life. These led to the creation of Sikh Captain America.

Singh has even donned spandex himself to bring the nonviolent superhero who defeats bigots with humor and compassion off the page and onto the streets. (Be warned that unlike Steve Rogers, who polices the Avengers’ language, Sikh Captain America’s catch phrase is "Let’s kick some intolerant ass.")

Polaroid from the collection of Robert Jackson courtesy Bellevue Arts Museum
Polaroid from the collection of Robert E. Jackson. Courtesy of Bellevue Arts Museum

Polaroids: Personal, Private, Painterly

Where: Bellevue Arts Museum
When: Oct. 12, 2018–March 24, 2019
Cost: Included with admission

Not all art is produced by artists. This Bellevue Arts Museum exhibit is a curated collection of instant Polaroid photography and photographic ephemera. Once an awe-inspiring new technology, instantly printed photos have a retro draw for kids today, who are used to looking at snapshots on a screen. Because privacy is a major theme of the exhibit, it’s an excellent starting point for discussions with kids, but it also means that some parents may be concerned about the subject matter of some photos, which include weapons or suggested nudity. 

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