On Sunday, the Orange County Historical Museum will add a children’s gallery aimed at kids aged 3 to 7.
The gallery will be titled Kids’ Space and is set to be a permanent addition to the top floor of the museum.
The space will showcase five different stations, each allowing children to relate their current life to that of those from the past. These stations are focused on food, school, currency, native animals and arts and crafts.
Since its opening in 1957, the museum has worked to enlighten and engage community members and visitors, according to their website.
And the new children’s space plans to build on that.
Tanya Day, the site manager at the museum, and Courtney Smith, the exhibits and programs coordinator, began thinking about the idea for a children’s gallery when they realized the lack of accessible resources for families.
Together, the pair came up with the final idea for the Kids’ Space.
Day said the space was created to allow children to learn about the history of Orange County while having fun in the process.
“As we take a closer look, not just at Hillsborough but Orange County as a whole, there really are not many free, educational offerings for families, especially younger children,” she said.
Through the new gallery, Day said children will have the chance to create their own money, touch animal fur and tracks, experience what it was like to go to school decades ago and more.
“It’s hard to bring a child into a museum and say don’t touch, don’t touch, so here is a space where they can touch,” Smith said.
Missy Julian-Fox, a former educator and current board member of the Chapel Hill Historical Society, said it is important for children to be actively involved in their learning process. She said the space will be important to connect children to their environment and develop their identities.
“I think it’s really critical that we have spaces like this,” Julian-Fox said. “I really applaud them for taking a step in that direction.”
Smith herself has been working to create even children’s books. She is in the middle of a book series that features dogs as main characters who live in Orange County across different decades.
The first book of the series, titled “Minnie Finds a Home,” has been published. Set in Cedar Grove in 1905, the book focuses on a collie puppy’s journey to be adopted.
At the Kids’ Space opening, retired Orange County teacher Victoria Pheribo Mattison will read “Minnie Finds a Home” to attendees.
Smith said her book series combines fiction and nonfiction learning. While writing, she was intentional about avoiding traditional gender stereotypes to create an inclusive space for children of all gender identities.
“Instead of using girls or boys, or being worried about gender, we would tell the stories featuring dogs,” she said.
The event on Sunday is just the beginning for the Kids’ Space. Day said she hopes to expand the gallery in the future.
“We are so excited to continue to grow, to develop it, to add more interactives, more text, more opportunities with it, hopefully throughout the next fiscal year,” she said.
The opening event is free of charge and no prior registration for in-person viewing is necessary. The “Minnie Finds a Home” reading will also be live-streamed on Zoom at 2 pm Registration is available at this link.
For those interested in illustrating Smith’s next book, contact her here.
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