{Germany} Chasing art thieves in Berlin

November 20, 2015

Kids in Museums, Germany

Apologies for the silence around the blog recently, November has caught me a little by surprise. But I really wanted to share some photos with you from an event that #MuseumBoy and I attended a couple of weekends ago.

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Berlin’s Märkisches Museum is one that we’ve had mixed experiences with in the past, but I wanted to give them another chance. What better opportunity, than their annual ‘Familientag’ (Family Day). This year’s theme was ‘Emil und die Detektive’ (Emil and the Detectives), after the name of a novel by one of Germany’s best known and beloved children’s authors. The book is set in 1920s Berlin, and sees Emil and his friends chase across the city to hunt down a thief, that robbed him off his money on the train to visit his grandmother. The programme promised everything from learning to take fingerprints, write in code and copy paintings, to making your own hats, glasses and fake beards to disguise yourself. One of the things #MuseumBoy was most looking forward to, was the chance to don a disguise and join a hunt around the museum for some art thieves!

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Once we arrived, we had a quick introduction to finger printing, skipped the code writing – since #MuseumBoy is only just learning to write ‘normally’, which is a bit of a code in itself – and went straight to making our own magnifying glass, as any detective worth their salt would have. It had to be pink, of course. Then we wanted to join the art thief tour, only to discover it was intended for children 8+. I explained that #MuseumBoy had been looking forward to this all week – and indeed that the flyer did not mention any age limits, and I had been told by the museum on asking that the activities were for age 3-4 onwards – and after some consulting with colleagues on their end and some stern looks from my end, we were allowed to join. There was actually another younger kid on our tour – a younger sibling – and I spotted a couple of younger kids on tours later in the day, so they obviously decided to be less strict about it.

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Anyway, everyone was kitted out in detective hats, coats and sunglasses, a special detective telescope, and an ‘official’ art detective ID badge. We all congregated in the museum’s courtyard to study the map and read the first clue in the envelope presented to us, then we were off. I can’t actually remember how many stops there were in total, but at each stop there was another envelope to open, a new clue to read, a task to solve, and a puzzle piece to collect.

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Tasks included things like spotting details in a painting, being quizzed to see what they remembered from the previous painting we had seen, and matching mysterious objects from an old suitcase to items in a family portrait. Some of the information went over #MuseumBoy’s head a little, and in between he got a bit bored at points when the explanations about the paintings went on for too long – he just kept wanting to know when we would catch the thief! – but to be fair, he was 3 years below the minimum recommended age, and for that he held his own very well. He even got all his quiz questions right. Basically, the whole thing was just a guided tour around some of the museum’s art works, but by doing it on this manner they really caught the children’s attention! I thought it was great. There was a bit of a twist at the end, but I won’t give it away, in case you ever have the chance yourself to take part in one of their tours.

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There were lots of other things to do too, at the museum. After strengthening ourselves with some Würstchen, cheese cake and hot chocolate in the cafe, we tried out all the games in the courtyard and the main hall, including marbles, skittles, spinning tops, skipping and sack racing. There was also 1920s music and dancing, an opportunity to make your own little paper theatre to take home (which we did), and the ‘disguise workshop’ where you could make your own fake moustaches (pink, of course), pipe cleaner glasses, and 1920s head dresses. We proudly wore ours on the train on the way home!

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In total, we were at the museum for over five hours. Five hours!! In the end, I was the one begging to go home.  While #MuseumBoy could have kept going – he wanted to try EVERYTHING – I was the one whining about being hungry and tired. Oh, the irony! When I later related this to my husband, he said “Well, what did you expect, you’ve been training him up for museums for the past 5 years.” Haha, I guess he has a point. Anyway, in the end, we had another whip round all the games, grabbed a couple more pipe cleaners to make more fake glasses on the way home, and paid our farewell to the museum. All in all, we had a great day, and I am happy to report that – despite the little hiccup about the age for the tour, and being asked about ten times if I really didn’t want to check in my coat because I wouldn’t be allowed to carry it if I got too hot – we had an overall positive experience. Which makes me really happy. Happy that we gave them another chance. And happy that they have obviously listened to some of the feedback from their visitors and made some changes. Keep up the good work!

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