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Museums are not boring!

In the middle of June, an art workshop was organised at the Kadriorg Art Museum, in Tallinn, for children from substitute homes and safe houses: first, the children were introduced to the castle and then they took part in a workshop, the children were also able to participate in art detective and fashion fad programmes.

Before the outing, the planned activities in the castle were introduced in the families; they looked at photos from the Internet and read about the programmes on offer. As part of their homework they discovered that Kadriorg Park consists of sections and in the older sections of the park the plant and tree species found there have not changed much over the last 300 years; instead, they have been maintained and new areas have been created, such as the Japanese Garden – one of the families was very interested in the latter, and they decided that they would go see it after the art museum visit.

Smart devices and sneaky secret passages

The excursion in the castle, or the art detective programme, was organised in an interesting and playful way and was also highly educational. While solving puzzles, children learned about history, costumes, caring for paintings, and many other exciting things. Most of them instantly memorised the fact that Kadriorg Palace was built by Russian Tsar Peter the Great for his wife Catherine, from whose name the name of Kadriorg has been derived. The pictures of Peter the Great and Catherine II were impressive, and the beautiful building charmed the children with its nobility. The children thought that the big hall was the most beautiful, where even the smallest detail was worth examining. Fifteen-year-old Oksana said that she remembered that Peter the Great used the Netherlands as an example when building the castle.

Particularly exciting was seeing the devices used in maintaining museum exhibits, which react to humidity and warmth. It turned out that caring for paintings and costumes is much more complex than it first appears. Secret passages from the cellar to the surface created lots of excitement – if the residents of the castle did not want to meet with uninvited guests, they could exit the castle unnoticed.

Children liked being in the castle a lot, although some smaller children thought there were “too many stairs”. When it was stated in one hall that the room is symmetrical, one 7-year-old observant girl whispered silently into the teacher’s ear that the pictures (with carvings) on the wall are different. When a 12-year-old boy saw the ceiling painting, he said that he was the one being depicted in the painting. Later, when the chance presented itself to act out this story, he was able to play the part of the hunter.

Matchbox detective’s badge and men during a time of strange fashions

In the workshop, children turned a matchbox into a detective’s badge. Danila gave it to his girlfriend. Everyone liked the materials from which the badges were made very much. Reelika said that her favourite workshop was the one where they decorated a box, into which they placed their cyphered heart’s desire. They also continued to craft and draw after they returned home.

In the fashion fad programme children loved the old fluffy dresses with high collars, decorated with gems and embroideries made with golden threads. Grand hairstyles were also remarkable. Today, it seems weird that men also wore long-hair wigs, shoes with heels – in essence dressing like ladies. Children first thought that men used to wear heels at that time probably because it would be easier to work or to dig the ground. But then they got answers to their questions on why fashion changes, why men wore high heels, and why mice occasionally moved into the wigs. Then there was a small fashion show where children could try on fancy clothes and imagine themselves living in the past.

The girls liked the fashion show a lot because they could play princesses, while the boys gladly took on the role of king. For one 14-year-old girl this was her favourite part of the museum day: she could dress her younger sister like a doll, transforming her into a beautiful princess.

Venturesome kitchen helper, Miiamilla Museum, and the Japanese Garden

When the lunch arrived, one mother noticed that their 12-year-old boy had disappeared from the table. It turned out that he had gone into the kitchen to help, and brought dishes, drinks, and food to the table. At home, this boy often gets into trouble due to his active nature. It was delightful to see that the child found an expression for his eagerness and stayed out of trouble while waiting for the food to be served.

After eating, some families went to play at the Miiamilla Museum. The museum offered the children the opportunity to play different roles and become, for instance, a shopkeeper or post office worker. They gazed at different animals and birds, solved puzzles, and bustled about outside on the playground.

As agreed, one family went to see the Japanese Garden after their visit to the art museum. This became a small adventure in itself because the garden had managed to conceal itself at the more distant edge of the park, between the trees. In the Japanese Garden, children noticed that there were lots of stones, stone terraces and flowing water. Ele asked: “Why are there no benches?” When discussing it among themselves, they realised that in a Japanese Garden the stones, water, plants, and trees as well as walking in the garden are very important. Children found out that it differs from a normal park because there is no running, sitting, nor cycling; instead, there is only quiet walking, looking at and enjoying plants in bloom, and the quiet flowing of water.

Museums are not boring!

On the way home, they talked about the day. The children recalled facts they learned during their visit to the Kadriorg Museum. At home everyone showed their crafted secret boxes to others and then hid them, making sure that their secrets would be even better kept.

From the museum day, the children received a lot of new knowledge about history and learned polite behaviour and cooperation, among other things. The children saw that museums are not necessarily boring places, but spunky history workshops that make you think about how we have reached the present day, what has changed or remained the same throughout the centuries.


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