The notion of a Children’s Museum just didn’t exist in the 1980s when I was a child and let’s face it, it’s a complete misnomer. There’s nothing “museum-like” about St Louis’s Magic House, enjoyable as it is (for children).
When I was a kid, the Museum meant the Manchester Museum, with impressive items pillaged from the British Empire and it’s protectorates during the Victorian Era. The Manchester Museum still has that same collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts and I remember them perfectly, on school trips pressed up against the glass, staring at partially unwrapped mummies with horrified fascination. One of the mummies was a male with a 2000 year bandaged up penis. You just don’t forget seeing that as a child.
Very unlike the Children’s “museums” of today, which are more or less interactive play palaces. That’s not a criticism, it’s fine, my kid had a great time. But unlike the Milwaukee Public Museum, where we took a family trip earlier this summer, I’m assuming she won’t remember much about the Magic House, except that she had fun. Nothing was learned, it’s an “in the moment” experience only.
But this cool tamarind monkey with its little hairdo at the Milwaukee Public Museum might be remembered for a lot longer. It already has legendary status in our family unit. (Note: Milwaukee Public Museum is perhaps the best museum I have ever been to. It’s like stepping into a lurid 1970s text book. Everyone should go there.)
In Milwaukee I didn’t get to draw anything, as my participation in looking at stuff was required. At the Magic House you just sit around and wait for your kid to be done playing. Which works out great if you take a sketchbook. Maybe these pages will serve as a memory book for my child, now that summer is all but over.
Art Trip is a series that features reflections on art and comics, and the adventures that transform those who seek it out.
Sacha Mardou is a Brit making comics in St Louis, Missouri. Sky in Stereo is her most recent comic.