Bulgarian "Children's Corner"

Review

of an Exhibition

by Paul Orselli

Published on November 23, 2010

  • Description:

    As background, I traveled to Bulgaria in November 2010 as part of a consulting team on a project sponsored by the America for Bulgaria Foundation and led by Vessela Gertcheva of the New Bulgarian University designed to introduce interactive “Children’s Corners” to five existing museums in Bulgaria.

    Amazingly, there are no interactive museums in Bulgaria. The concept of what we in North America would call “Children’s Museums” or “Science Centers” do not yet exist, but this “first phase” project will serve as the “icebreaker” to such concepts for the entire Bulgarian Museum Community and the Bulgarian museum-going public.

    The first of these “Children’s Corners” opened in September 2010 at the Regional History Museum in Blagoevgrad (located in the southwestern region of Bulgaria.)

    The Regional History Museum draws upon the curatorship of archaelogists and ecologists. As such, the (perhaps) unlikely topics of prehistoric archaeology and ecology served as the two main organizing concepts for the Children’s Corner.

    I will state upfront that the staff have done a wonderful job and have created a space that is colorful, welcoming, and engaging. As you can see by the accompanying images, there are familiar early childhood exhibit areas, such as dress-up and role playing, albeit with a prehistoric archaeological twist.

    Children are able to engage in a simulated dig site, match replica bones to the appropriate ancient animals, and grind wheat and try on “pelt clothing” in a prehistoric camp site. The museum staff seemed a little overwhelmed by the boisterous enthusiasm of the young visitors to the Children’s Corner, and likened the experience to pressure testing a steam boiler. That being said, all staff from the director on down seemed grateful for the opportunity to provide such a novel interactive area to their visitors.

    The Ecological Section of the exhibition includes exhibit components about nests and eggs, a digital phone to listen to bird songs, and a large tree graphic with magnetic seasonal pieces such as leaves and fruits that visitors can use. There are clever twists on animal stamping activities (using the science supply of “moon sand” which creates great impressions without making a big mess) and drawing tables as well.

    All in all, I was very impressed by one of the first forays into interactive exhibit areas for family learning that our Bulgarian colleagues have created. There’s a (museum) revolution going on in Bulgaria, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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