Exhibits at the DuPage Children's Museum typically focus on basic concepts such as math, science, engineering and art, but "Monumental," which opened Nov. 16, is bringing all those ideas together by exploring ancient architecture.
"We'd never done anything that incorporated culture," said marketing manager Bri Bromberek. "This was an opportunity for us."
"Monumental"Where: DuPage Children's Museum, 301 N. Washington St., Naperville, (630) 637-8000, dupagechildrens.org
Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Price: $11; $10 for seniors
The museum partnered with Chicago's National Hellenic Museum and the National Museum of Mexican Art to develop an exhibit that lets kids learn about ancient Greek and Mayan society in a highly interactive way. Kids can compare their own foot to the foot from a replica of a colossal statue of the goddess Athena, teaching them about scale. Another section lets kids cut out Mayan glyphs representing different letters and glue them together to spell their name.
Visitors can build mini-monuments using blocks shaped like columns beneath an arch where the light is constantly changing, showing how monuments were often built to take advantage of shadows.
"I think it's perfect for younger kids," said exhibits manager Cricket Brooks. "When you think about architecture, the first thing you think about is building blocks."
There's lots of signage throughout the exhibit offering information about how monuments were used to pay tribute to ancient gods like Poseidon and Kukulkan and putting information in context by explaining the concept of a Mayan pictograph by comparing it to a modern picture that conveys information: a bathroom sign.
Other displays offer historical facts and figures about the different societies and a timeline of monuments ranging from the Egyptian pyramids to the Lincoln Memorial.
"This appeals to all ages," Bromberek said. "You're going to have older kids who are able to read who can experience the exhibit in very different ways than the younger kids are. These are historical facts that kids will have to know later on."
"Monumental" also aims to banish the stark white vision of the ancient world caused by the paint no longer being visible on surviving monuments. A new wall of touch screens, which the museum plans to use for future exhibits, lets kids color in parts of the Parthenon or the Athena sculpture. They can dress up in colorful garb including Mayan headdresses or the helmets of a Greek soldier, a component parents love using as a photo opportunity.
The exhibit will run for at least six months in Naperville, after which it will be available for museums around the country to display.
This is the first traveling exhibit DuPage Children's Museum has designed, building it to be easy to transport and set up in any space. Officials plan to use its local run as a test that will let them improve it.
"It's a learning opportunity for us to see how kids interact with it," Bromberek said. "We can always modify it."