We went to the newly re-opened Exploratorium, which is a marvel. It is filled with smiling, laughing faces, both children and adult. It is built for connection. At one point, I saw a safe with a phone next to it. I picked up the phone and a voice answered. She gave me the numbered combination to open the safe, and when I did, there she was, smiling at me. She was on another phone within the museum. We found each other and met in person.
The highlight for us was something new, an area devoted to experimenting with thoughts, feelings, and social behavior.
We were particularly struck by two exhibits. In one, we entered a dark room and sat on a stool to observe individual screens, each showing a Black man's face. The screens alternated between these men of varying ages as they answered one question, and then, another. It was incredibly moving to see and hear them answer questions like how it feels to eat chicken, watermelon, or a banana in front of "White people". I had never thought about it. Why would I, and for some it wasn't an issue and for others it was. If you want to gain a sense of, and increase your understanding of what it is to be a Black man in this country, this exhibit is for you.
Within the section, "The Changing Face of What is Normal: Mental Health" is an exhibit called: "The Lives They Left Behind." Old suitcases, discovered in 1995 in the attic of the Williard Psychiatric Center, a decommissioned mental institution in New York, are displayed along with the owner's belongings and a description of the long-departed owner, and their diagnosis then, and what it would be now. At one time, epilepsy meant institutionalization.
There is also a Utica Crib, a crib that can be locked and is a cage. You can lie down in it. I couldn't lie down in it. Looking at it was bad enough. The exhibit is chilling, shocking, stunning. What is amazing is to see the children learning and experiencing about emotions and science and tools. The exhibits are interactive, and in many places, the children write their responses and hang them on the wall to be read. In one place, there is a wall displaying classic children's books. Memories kindle in a way a Kindle may not be able to do.
I was entranced with two little brothers playing with how they could influence a tornado with their movements. They encouraged a little girl to enter their play.
Children can put on masks of emotions: anger, fear, joy, and act them out. To see minds and spirits in the making is affirmation, is thrill. Wonderful teachers were there with their students, and parents interacting and encouraging. I look forward to returning, probably on "adult night".
Check it out: