Tag Archives: collections

Connecting to Collections at Summer Camp

We’ve integrated a couple of mini-Artifact Experiences into our summer camp sessions – so far, so good!

Our first camp theme this summer was “World Safari” – granting campers aged 6-13 a chance to explore animals and the environment. Once again using our natural history teaching collection, campers and I discussed what exactly scientists can hypothesize about a given animal given its skeletal remains. Campers in the 9-13 group really enjoyed using different magnifying glasses to examine the bones, while younger campers in the 6-8 group seemed to like feeling the different textures of the specimens. I always try to pull in the senses, so in addition to examining with eyes and hands, campers also smelled the bones – and briefly inhaled a light veneer of dust and discovered the smell of mothballs. Both sessions agreed it was pretty cool to, as one camper put it, “see the empty head of a horse.” (Or, skull, if you will.) 

After we explored some collection items, campers then had an opportunity to mold and create their own animal skeleton, using a combination of Crayola’s Model Magic (a favorite of the campers and myself) and Crayola’s Air-Dry Clay. This second clay worked really well for some of the older campers, who were intrigued by the fast-acting nature of this clay, and its cartlage-like color. For tools, campers were given a range of simple in-house materials such as tooth picks, popsicle sticks, and tongue depressors. I also had some markers available, and a little bit of color nicely blends with the Model Magic. A couple of campers even integrated some of the tools into the construction of their models – which is pretty neat, considering how the fabrication of some large-scale specimens or specimen models are displayed in museums! Some campers were directly inspired by the specimens, while others opted to create a model of a favorite animal, or, in the case of a couple of campers, invent their own animals!

Here are some of the campers’ awesome creations, I was really impressed by all of the creativity and attention to detail!: 

Horse Skull

Horse Skull – Credit: K., aged 10.

Turtle Shell

Turtle Shell – Credit: A., aged 9.

Horse Ribs

Horse Rib Cage (with still beating heart!) – Credit: H., aged 12.

Alligator - Credit: M., aged 7.

Alligator – Credit: M., aged 7.

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Ready for a collection close-up?

ImageThis is a close-up of an animal sculpture. Can you guess the animal?

Made out of fabricated and chromed steel, I’ll be highlighting this piece from our art collection at an upcoming family program. What do you think it is?

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Escape from Storage!

Escape from Storage!

Normally housed at our Research & Collections Center, this barn owl made his way downtown for a special family program next week. We used archival boxes to transport the specimens, and I may have gotten a few odd looks from other drivers on my way across town. I’m very excited to have the collection items for the event!

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Connecting with Collections

This week I’ve been working with our wonderful curators to incorporate animal specimens from the Museum’s research collection in an upcoming program. The program will focus on endangered wildlife from Illinois. The event’s objective is not only to educate visitors about the range of plants and animals in danger, but also highlight what people can do to help. Museum visitors will also get a chance to see collections rarely on display! 

A range of animal specimens will be on display, including snakes, turtles, and birds from the area. Some of the specimens will be real, preserved examples of the species while others will be realistic models.

Here is a sneak preview of what will be featured at the program: 


Several examples of snake models.
Included is Kirtland’s Snake – can you spot it?

Because of the condition of the models and the specimens, visitors will not be able to touch the examples, but will have the opportunity to closely observe the examples during a drawing activity. The event will feature other hands-on crafts and activities.

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Connecting with Collections

As an Education intern, one of my goals has been to connect audiences with museum collections. There are many ways museums engage the public with collections – exhibits, public programs, events, tours, online collections, etc. One way I have increased the accessibility of collections is to highlight art and artifacts at a monthly family program I plan and implement, Super Saturdays.

For February’s event “Mosaics, Murals, & More: African American Artists,” I featured work done by African Americans and highlighted the different mediums artists utilize. One of the artists featured was Mr. Imagination (Gregory Warmack), the late Chicago-based artist who used a variety of material and found objects in his works (part of the “& More” aspect of the program!). One medium Mr. Imagination used was sandstone, so I placed three examples of his sandstone sculptures on display. To connect with the pieces, children and families could create sculptures with Crayola’s Model Magic – an awesome play-doh like substance which hardens after a few hours.

In honor of Valentines Day, check out this neat Eiffel Tower a family created together:


Eiffel Tower, artist unknown.
Medium: Model Magic
February 9, 2013

Below is the case featuring some of Mr. Imagination’s sandstone sculptures. Throughout the day, I pointed out the pieces to emphasize the connection. I saw many families designing Model Magic works based on Mr. Imagination’s pieces – which was great!


Untitled, Mr. Imagination.
Medium: Sandstone
c. 1990s






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