One does not normally think of a collection of antiquities being placed on exhibit at a children’s museum, but the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis provides the exception to the rule.
In summer 2019, two exhibits focusing on Greece opened: one, Treasures of Ancient Greece, in cooperation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, is only on view until January 5, 2020. The other, Take Me There: Greece, developed by the staff of the museum, will be on view for a longer period — approximately four years.
Treasures of Ancient Greece features some 150 objects from several museums in Greece, including replicas of the famed Antikythera mechanism (the world’s first computer) and the Zeus/Poseidon statue from the National Archaeological Museum of Greece.
The exhibit is divided into several rooms starting from an entry way showcasing vases and sculptures organized in chronological order and a sixth century BCE marble kouros statue. The next room offers a short film about ancient Greece as narrated by a replica karyatid brought to life through film.
The main rooms of the exhibit feature two topics. The first focuses on daily life with items from government (kleroterion replica, ostraca; and voting ballots); a mosaic floor from the Patras museum; jewelry; and replicas of the Parthenon frieze.
A variety of activities stationed around the room invite the visitor to engage in ancient Greek life. For example, one area has several models of ancient vases on which the visitor can draw pictures, simulating painted drawings on ancient black and red figure vases. Another area is a mock racetrack where one can race in the “Olympic Games.”
The second room is devoted to myths. Around the room are paintings illustrating certain myths and texts telling the stories. Here one finds vitrines featuring vases with connected stories, such as the Labors of Hercules, or the Trojan War. In this room is a separate area just for the Antikythera mechanism along with a wall of gears for children to work with, illustrating the concept of movable gears. A gallery facilitator on hand is available to answer questions.
As in the first room, variety of activities to engage the visitor: such as samples of cloth with instructions to dress up like a Greek man or woman; an interactive story of the Poseidon-Athena contest to become the patron of the city that will become Athens.
In both rooms, photos with text explain modern concepts derived from ancient Greece: democracy, theater, architecture and fashion.
The last room houses costumes from a film based on myth: the Hercules costume from Hercules (2014) starring Dwayne Johnson.
Across the hall from the exhibit of antiquities is Take Me There: Greece, focusing on life in modern day Greece. As one enters the room, to the right is a life-size mock-up of an airplane. Here visitors are introduced to modern Greece as if they were actually flying there. A short video with an airline pilot and flight attendant makes the introduction.
As in the previous exhibit, there are several sections. An interactive kiosk with videos and a computer helps visitors learn the Greek alphabet and a few simple words. In addition, the same kiosk helps the visitor learn a few basic phrases.
A mock-up of the Acropolis topped by the Parthenon brings ancient and modern Greece together. Changing lighting allows visitors to experience the change from day to night, as if they were actually there.
Some of the sections in this room include a “periptero” (kiosk) with magazines and snacks; a bakery, a pharmacy and an area where visitors learn about pressing olives for oil. In the bakery, a video explains how to make dolmadthes, and children can make their own pretend dolmadthes using materials provided. Children can then “serve” the results to their parents at tables for a kafeneio.
In addition, there is a sea turtle rescue center, an area focusing on the Orthodox church, and two rooms which represent homes of Greek families, specifically focusing on the children.
The rooms are equipped with books and toys. Videos of specific children introduce visitors to their “homes.” One such “home” is that of a child of an archaeologist in ancient Corinth, so in addition to the materials connected to the child there is an interactive “dig” where visitors excavate an area and put the “finds” in a virtual museum.
Both exhibits are well worth the visit for anyone, no matter what the age!
(1) Treasures of Ancient Greece, Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
June 15. 2019 – January 5, 2020.
Curated by Ashley Ramsey Hannum; (internal curator), Melissa Pederson (exhibit developer), Dr. Maria Vlazaki, Secretary General, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport (general oversight)
2) Take Me There: Greece
Opened June 15, 2019.
Curated by Andrea Hughes and Cathy Hamaker (exhibit developer).