Meet a Museum Family #4

June 18, 2015

Travel, Denmark, Spain, USA

Recently,  I launched a new series here on the blog called ‘Meet a Museum Family’, in which I will be interviewing other museum loving families, and asking them to share their experiences and tips with my readers. I am really delighted that the first three interviews, with Melanie from Copenhagen, with Amanda from Australia, and with Mar from England, got such a great reception! I hope you enjoy the rest of the series just as much. This week, we travel back to Copenhagen to talk to Ania. 

Museum Family_

1. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your family?

My name is Ania and I live in Copenhagen with my husband and two children, ages 4 years and 5 months. We live abroad and are constantly moving as my husband is a diplomat; we tag along for the ride but I’m an HR consultant. I also pen two blogs – one is, The New Diplomats Wife, a lifestyle blog about our travels around the world. The second, which I just launched recently, is called A Toddler in the Trees. It chronicles our experience with putting our daughter in a Danish forest school, which means they’re outside all day everyday.

2. How old were your kids when you started taking them to museums, and what was the first museum you remember taking them to?

When my daughter was born we lived in the centre city of Vienna, so a host of museums were just a quick walk away and so she’s pretty much been going since the very beginning. The first museum I took her to was either the Kunsthistoriches or the Albertina – I can’t remember which since they were both regular haunts of mine. When they’re so young, it’s not as though children really know which painting is by which artist, and frankly, it doesn’t matter – I’d like to think that the colours and shapes and movement are still interesting enough to them. Paintings seemed to be quite, shall we say, inspirational to my daughter to keep things moving though. Our biggest blowouts were always in museums so I became quite an expert on which museums had the most infant friendly bathrooms.

In the Sculpture Park at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark

In the Sculpture Park at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark

 

3. What is your earliest memory of visiting museums yourself as a child?

My parents were and still are big museum goers. I don’t really remember a time where we didn’t go – they’re always a staple of our trips. My earliest memory though is probably visiting the Art Institute of Chicago – I remember the various collections there but also the programs that they would have for children. One day, the focus was Vikings and we made swords and shields, and I remember thinking that the fact they had gold paint was just amazing. Those art afternoons were amazing resources they provided for free.

4. Why is it important to you to take your kids to museums?

I take the time to make sure we visit museums regularly for a number of reasons. Of course there is the subject matter like the art or the history or whatever the museum is about…but museums themselves are also an opportunity to learn about so much more than just the subject matter. It’s also an opportunity to absorb architecture…or display styles…or how welcoming they might be to different groups of people…or how to behave in public…or how to wait your turn and be considerate in crowded spaces. And most importantly, I think if children have a good foundation of going to museums and having good memories and associations with them, they are more likely to want to protect them and ensure these same museums are around for their own children.

Making some art at the Statens Kunst Museum in Copenhagen

Making some art at the Statens Kunst Museum in Copenhagen

 

5. What’s the last museum you visited as a family and how was it?

The last museum we visited together with my daughter was also likely the first we ever did. We recently returned from Vienna again where our second child was born and lived just a few minutes away from the Albertina. They had several excellent exhibits – I was partial to the additions they made to their permanent collection, but my daughter loved the Miro exhibit they had. Sometimes as adults, it’s easy to rush judgment on more abstract or modern pieces, but I noticed my daughter loves them. Maybe children can relate to those pieces more, feel like they have more in common with them? Although she drew the line at Jackson Pollock – I took her to see a retrospective in Copenhagen last year and she declared “he was making a mess”.

6. What is your favourite museum to visit as a family?

Here in Copenhagen, my daughter loves the Louisiana Museum. Actually we all do, which is a good thing since all our visitors and guests always want to go too. They have a layout that feels more like a house than a museum, the cafe is quite tasty, and the museum is laid out right over the ocean. The view is amazing and there is lots of green space outside for kids to get out all of their energy. The shop at the very end has some of the best Danish design all under one roof. There’s pretty much something for everyone which always makes for a good museum.

Just outside of town, we also like the Maritime Museum in Helsingor a lot. I never would have guessed it, but we all just loved it and ended up being members there. Architecturally, they built this new museum right into an old dry dock so that’s pretty fascinating. And since maritime culture is a big part of Denmark, we learned a ton about boats and shipping routes and history. And the best part? The “do it yourself” tattoo parlor. They have ball point pens mounted on tattoo arms, and little projectors that display the designs on your arms and you can give yourself a little temporary ink.

But the more we see museums as a family, I’ve noticed that it’s less about the museum itself and more about their attitude towards families. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that the museum has to have treasure hunts and chicken fingers. Kids can see past that; we don’t usually do those anyway. But this is more about the question of whether they welcome children and their questions and perspectives. And sometimes, it’s been the “stuffiest” museums that have surprised me the most with their openness.

Standing in a scaled replica of the Kronborg Castle in Helsingor in Denmark - the inspiration for Hamlet's castle and now a museum.

Standing in a scaled replica of the Kronborg Castle in Helsingor in Denmark – the inspiration for Hamlet’s castle and now a museum.

 

7. Can you share a particularly memorable family museum experience?

This summer we spent some time in Spain and on the trip we visited the Dali Museum in Figueres, which just really blows the mind. It’s Dali in all his Daliness, but this is a good example of the different perspective that children can have. We see his work and we think “weird…what was in his brain?” But my daughter sees an alligator with a pocket watch who has a glass bottle for a leg and thinks its completely normal. Or shrieks in sheer delight when you put the coin in an old car and it rains inside. It as though someone created in real life what she was seeing in her head all this time. It’s not a place where one would naturally think to take children but she just couldn’t get enough of it.

Hands on at the NaturBornholm Center in Denmark

Hands on at the NaturBornholm Center in Denmark

 

8. What museum would you love to visit as a family/ with your kids?

I read once about the “cockroach tour” at the London Science Museum which I thought sounded like a complete riot. I have a weird repulsion/fascination with cockroaches since they can survive pretty much anything – you even dress like a roach for the tour. My daughter was always too young on previous trips but she’s getting older now so I’m hoping to make it on a future trip soon. Also, I wish museums would do more evening tours with candlelight. I suppose those are fire hazards and not so good for art pieces, but it seems like such a romantic way to see the pieces from a different perspective.

9. If you could spend a night in a museum with your family, which one would you choose and why?

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles – gorgeous architecture, clean white spaces, plenty of space to run around in, good food, ocean views and fun art. The occasional celebrity spotting doesn’t hurt either. Actually either of the Getty Museums in LA – the Malibu villa location would be a close second, and even closer to the ocean.

In front of the Karen Blixen Museum in Denmark

In front of the Karen Blixen Museum in Denmark

 

10. And finally, what advice do you have for other families on how to make museum visits run more smoothly?

I think people tend to get way more stressed out than they should over museums. It’s okay to cut yourself some slack – museums are for the public, and the public is you. Why my daughter exclaims something about an art piece (“That woman has no clothes on, mommy!”), she’s just saying what everyone else is thinking, and I would rather her say engage and something too loudly, than be afraid of thinking through something for herself.

And as always, the same tips apply as doing just about anything else with kids – make sure they’re rested, fed, etc. I find that I try less and less to try to “see the whole museum” with kids, and have become more focused on seeing a part of the museum or see an exhibit. Try to have your kids tell you about what they see, let them navigate a bit, look for ways to say yes more than you say no. And finally, know your kids’ limits, know when they’re done…it’s always okay to declare victory and go home.


Thank you so much to Ania for taking the time to answer my questions! “Museums are for the public, and the public is you” – I couldn’t have put it better myself. Be sure to check out Ania’s blogs too at The New Diplomats Wife and A Toddler in the Trees.

If YOU are a museum loving family and would like to take part in the ‘Meet a Museum Family’ interview series, just get in touch! And for other tips about taking children to museums, and recommended museums to visit, check out the ‘Kids in Museums‘ section of my blog. Thanks for reading!


All photographs in this post courtesy of Ania Krasniewska

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