This past weekend, the Museum in which I work hosted a "Behind the Scenes" family party. The topic was Ancient Egypt and the idea was to give young visitors and their adult friends an opportunity to see, learn about, and do things they wouldn't be able to do in a regular museum visit.
On one table, a Curator presented a dog mummy. The visitors could ask questions about mummification, pets and animals in general. Another Curator hosted a 'Real of Fake' table. The Library was asked to select a spectacular rare book for our presentation.
My co-worker Ben and I liked the idea of the outreach but weren't sure about the safety of the material we'd be bringing out. The book (about the size of a generous table for 4 in a trendy restaurant) would be displayed open on an unshielded table for 2 hours. The intended age range for this family day was from 8 to 16. Education had organized a self-guided tour. Young visitors were provided with a map, a set of colored pencils and a large sheet of papyrus. Their goal was to make drawings of selected objects in the galleries. When we put this all together in our minds, is it any wonder we started to hear the ominous music from "Jaws"?
As it happened, we did not need to worry. Everything went swimmingly. The children were very polite. They asked good questions, listened to our answers and asked more good questions. The adults were also lovely people. They backed us up when we had to offer the (rare and polite) caution that, yes, it's fine to point to an object in the illustration and ask about it. It isn't a good thing to actually touch the paper because the book is over 200 years-old.
The literal icing on the cake arrived today. Ben and I each received a small box from a local, up-scale pastry shop. Each box contained a large, delicious red velvet cupcake with real buttercream frosting. There was also a small card that was hand-written. It said, "Dear Thipu, Thank you for making Behind-the-Scenes such a sweet success. (Signed) the team in membership".
I'll be honest, that little thank you gift really made my day.