I've been on the Ottawa Library's waiting list for a free pass to the museum of Civilization since January 2nd of this year. There are still a couple of thousand "holds" in front of me!
Therefore, we were surprised but pleased when Uncle Dave and Auntie Karen managed to bypass the list last weekend. They were nice enough to lend us the pass (don't worry - I've returned it!) and Elizabeth, Erika and I went to the museum on Wednesday. Maria had a bad cold so she had to stay home with her Mommy.
The museum is a three-in-one museum (The Museum of Civilization, The Canadian Children's Museum and the Canadian Postal Museum), and I was vaguely hoping that we could knock all three off of my list. Erika nearly decided to go to the Postal Museum first but then changed her mind and we started with the Children's museum instead.
It quickly became clear that we were not going to visit the other two museums. In fact, we didn't even see everything in the Children's Museum in the three hours we were there, despite my frequent exhortations to "move to the next exhibit now girls!" They probably could have spent the whole time in the "house under construction" exhibit alone. They 'painted', arranged floor tile, laid brick and shingled a roof. They could have tried their hand at some plumbing too, but Erika thought that looked too hard.
Although I've been to the Museum of Civilization many times, I've never actually seen the Children's part before. Essentially, it's a giant dramatic play house, featuring lots of actual vehicles to drive, little houses to visit, and activities from all around the world to try. Elizabeth and Erika dressed up as "princesses" and twirled around in the theatre, wrote postcards, sniffed the spice barrels and made sushi in the sushi bar. When we got to the dutch cheese shop, Erika decided it was time to eat. "I'll cook, and you pretend to be the baby", she told Elizabeth. "That way, it won't matter if you don't play with me properly."
They made their own stamps out of a foam block in the art studio. Then we went to the library and read "Red is Best" and played with their fake money and cash register. Erika entertained me with a hilarious puppet show. Essentially various animals came along and attacked Mr. Shark. "I'm going to eat you Mr. Shark!", said the whale. So the whale tried. "No", said Mr. Shark. "I have big teeth and I'm going to eat YOU!" So he did. Puppets went flying and only the skeleton (Erika's hand) was left. Elizabeth wanted to keep opening the curtains so after only two shows I decided it was time to move on.
We had our snack outside above the Japanese Zen Garden. "Windy!" said Elizabeth. "Let's run!" said Erika. So they went running around and around. We probably could have spent the entire time outside, too.
I don't know whether our experience was typical, but the museum was very quiet and almost empty. In fact, aside from the Studio we didn't even see the staff much - the girls and I were often entirely on our own. It's obvious that the exhibits are aimed more at Erika's age than Elizabeth's. I had to ask the staff to give Elizabeth a passport of her own and to stamp her hand, because Elizabeth really wants to do everything that Erika does. But then of course Elizabeth was a bit freaked by the stamp. She kept telling me that her hand was "broken" (maybe she thought it looked bruised?). The stamping stations were just a smidgen too tall for Elizabeth to be able to operate on her own. The costumes in the theatre were either too long or too heavy. But Elizabeth just tripped her way up onto stage, so in the end it didn't matter much. Both girls played very very hard.
We were pretty surprised when 5 o'clock came and the Museum announced it was closing. I had to promise that we'd go back soon.