We had an excellent visit to the Albany Institute of History & Art today - something we never quite got around to during the holiday period. Yes - it was excellent but I do have a few issues with it.
The Institute has many great features for us. It has a very nicely supplied kids hands-on room, it's small in size, but stocked with a good variety of interesting items well presented and right now has the Kid Stuff exhibition of toys from earlier generations - most of which are still available today. However, they really give the impression they don't want us to visit.
Firstly, there's the frosty reception. Seriously - would it hurt to smile or to make us feel welcome? Then there's the signs - no photography, don't touch, keep your voice down. OK I get it, I don't even mind it in principle, but somehow they make it seem like a bigger deal than they need to.
It turns out that the second-floor galleries are completely photography-free and that is where the Kid Stuff exhibit currently resides. This is unfortunate. First, let me say that I understand that sometimes photography in galleries and museums is forbidden because of concerns over copyright etc. or simply forced on the galleries by the owners of the material on display, I think that this is a mistake, but I understand it and would never fight it. Having said that, I do find it hard to believe that anyone would look at photographs of pieces of art and then decide to skip the trip to the gallery. People who are happy with looking at such reproductions were probably not that likely to go in the first place and others are more likely to show up if they see interesting items advertised. If the photos are for personal mementos then so what? - maybe it discourages a few sales of an exhibition book - but again, I can't imagine this is a big financial effect. Secondly, can I remind you that the current exhibit is a bunch of old children's toys. It's pretty extraordinary that they would object to me taking a picture of my daughter playing Twister or playing with a yo-yo. I also happen to know that the materials belong to the Institute, so there is no owner-in-the-background forcing their hands.
Anyway, here is a picture outside the galleries:
The exhibition itself is great. There are several toys to play with as well as very interesting pieces about their history. We enjoyed 'walking' Slinkys down a set of specially provided stairs and Exile #4 asked a Magic 8-Ball if I would have a good day tomorrow and it said "Yes" so that's nice.
There was a craft project - coloring and making shadow-puppet style fish which E5N1 had almost boundless patience for which was great to see. He and I ended up going back after a quick look around the permanent collection on the third floor while the girls took their time in looking around. The lady who was running this project was very friendly and apparently happy to be almost-overrun with children keen to take part.
Amongst the descriptive material, I discovered that it was in the early 1960's that Mr Potato Head stopped relying on a real potato making it all the more surprising that both Exile #2 and I are convinced we played with the older version as children. Also, the name "Frisbee" was added to the original name by Wham-O because people were calling their "Pluto Platter" product that after the pie dishes from the Frisbie Pie Company that were sometimes supposedly used in a similar way.
I did manage to get a slightly more cheery greeting in response to my thanks as we were leaving - but maybe they were just pleased that we were on our way out!
Here are the puppets that Exile #4, E5N1 and I made, demonstrated by the young Exiles once we were safely out on the public streets of the city of Albany:
All in all, we had a really good time, but seriously...does it have to be so, you know, serious?