And that’s why I’m so disheartened when I hear from people that history is boring. What they’re really saying is that we’re not telling them a good story. We’re not involving them. Unfortunately, in many cases, the hands-on involvement that places like the Ontario Science Centre are famous for with their scientific marvels and gizmos is just not possible in traditional history museums. You can’t have twenty thousand people playing with rare artifacts and expect no damage to come to the items.
But, just because it’s not possible in traditional history museums doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Pack up the fine china from 1753, take the satin ropes down from around the exhibit and the “do not touch” signs, and make history interactive; imaginative. Kids don’t want to look at things. They want to do things. Even I want to do things when I’m at a museum. Give me a button to press, or an over-the-top actor wandering around creating atmosphere. Give me gadgets to play with. I don’t want to see a rug that Charles I once walked on; I want to see his head fly off as the executioners axe comes down and get splattered with fake blood. Don’t give me text-panels, give me activities. But most of all, tell me a story. Because that’s what history is. A story. Our story.
And we shouldn’t expect people to memorize our story. Instead, we should make it something worth listening to; worth participating in.
Why does the mission statement of the Ontario Science Centre say it aims first and foremost “to delight” whereas the