Sunday, April 5, 2009

You Did It! Hands-on at the Book Museum

Yesterday was the culmination of a small project that brought the idea of informal hands-on activities to the Book Museum here in Kyiv. One benefit of my work with small museums at home is that I understand how to do things with very little. Valentina, the director of the museum, had expressed interest in holding papermaking "master classes," but the museum had no money to do so--no funds to pay a master to teach. I suggested that a papermaking master wasn't needed, that staff, with minimal supplies, could create a great, fun bookmaking event for children. We held several planning meetings, gathered our supplies including blender, hair dryers (thanks to Irina, as always, for such great support), scrap paper, dried flowers, and more, prototyped our efforts (with the help of Valentina's young son Bogdan--that's him above) and yesterday, we went live--having a lively pilot session with a small group of children.

It was terrific the ways in which Valentina and her staff embraced the process--they had one large papermaking frame, but after our prototyping, the museum carpenter constructed, from scrap supplies, ten small ones, perfect for children. The staff also continued to experiment on making paper, coming up with the technique that worked with a group of children and the just-right ratio of scraps to water.

After a brief introduction to the process by Valentina, the work began! Children (and some enthusiastic parents) made paper, block printed, made pop-ups, wrote with a quill pen and bound it all into a small book. I found myself, with the help of a very young translator (children begin learning English in elementary school here), learning the words for dinosaur and elephant, and demonstrating pop-ups to children--in a funny way, this kind of work transcends any language barriers.

We haven't yet had a chance to debrief, but I think everyone enjoyed the process and the museum learned that you can do projects like this, with almost no funds, and that by doing so, you create an enthusiastic place for learning. These activities--and other related ones--can be done in a workshop setting or also done as drop-in activities for family groups.

The best part--some shy smiles from some very small girls as they showed me their projects--a great reminder about the best part of museum work.

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