Saturday, August 12, 2017

‘Funny thing are everywhere’ at the Dr. Seuss Museum

When you step underneath the wavy blue arch at the entrance to The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, you enter the fantastic mind of Theodor Geisel – aka Dr. Seuss.

Like Geisel’s legendary children’s stories, this new Springfield, Massachusetts museum pulls you from reality and leads you on a rhyming, rhythmic romp through the farthest reaches of the imagination, where the places are preposterous, the characters are colorful and the creatures are curious. And much like Geisel’s most well known books, when you get to the end you may be thinking a little bit differently about the world around you.

Opening this past June 2017 in Geisel’s hometown, the museum is a dual tribute to the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss and to the man who thought it all up.

Housed in a stone manse on the grounds of the Springfield Museums, The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum overlooks a grassy commons that also is home to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. A series of massive bronze sculptures depicting some of Geisel’s most beloved characters, and the author himself, this beautiful bronze playground was created by Geisel’s step-daughter, artist Lark Grey Dimond-Cates.

The statues of Horton, Sally, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and more, emerging from the pages of a book while Geisel, the Cat in the Hat and a mischievous Grinch stand by, convey the site’s devotion to imagination and interactivity. It is a goal carried successfully throughout the museum itself.

Dr. Seuss’s creations envelop visitors upon first entrance on the museum’s main floor. Classic Seussian colors are splashed around the interior, bookshelves abound, characters hide in the corners and murals adorn the walls, depicting scenes and quotes from various books.

The first room to the right is dedicated reading space, brightly decorated like, Oh, the places you’ll go!, complete with numerous copies of many Dr. Seuss books. The first rooms to the left show how childhood in Springfield inspired Geisel’s later work. A large touch screen allows children to draw and write right on the walls, just like young Ted used to do in his own bedroom. Next to it is a small-scale playhouse designed to look like the Geisel family bakery.

Venturing further, you find yourself interacting with some of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved tales. Horton, the Cat in the Hat and others come alive in life-sized models, perfect for photos. Children can test their engineering skills as they stack foam turtles next to a sculpture of Yertle the Turtle; or try out a few rhymes of their own with a Green Eggs and Ham word game. 

The interactive exhibits strewn around the facility are fun, but aren’t just for play. Like many of Geisel’s stories, the games and displays ask children and adults alike to use their imagination as a tool to think about and answer the questions of youth and sometimes dilemmas apparent in the broader world we inhabit. A display of The Lorax, for example, asks children to help separate trash from recyclables, recalling that story’s conservationist theme.

Wandering down to the basement level, we found a large room dedicated to crafts and projects, as well as a comfortable reading area and library. That day the museum was asking kids to color socks for the Fox in Socks, and play memory matching games.

If the basement and first floors encapsulate all the magic that came from Geisel’s mind, the top floor illuminates a behind-the-scenes view of it.

The upper level drills down into the man behind the rhyme, shining a brightly colored light on his family tree (actually painted on the wall in typical Dr. Seuss fashion), his habits and his process. Housing items and memorabilia from Geisel’s home and office, from his writing tools and drawing desk to his sitting chair, the top floor is a museum-style tribute to the eccentricities that spouted the legendary books.

One room recreates Geisel’s living room, with the author’s own furniture and artwork. Included are worn and torn books, flamboyant hats and toys, and even his beloved stuffed toy dog Theophrastus (which makes an appearance in various family photos hung throughout the floor’s exhibit space). Another space at the top of the staircase recreates Geisel’s work studio, with its oversized central drafting table, a vibrantly colored painting and a worn and torn red high-back chair where a Cat in the Hat doll now sits in place of its creator.

Perhaps the most interesting room in the entire complex, though, is the yellow walled hall housing many of Geisel’s drafts, letters, correspondences, notes and more. Here, a large central table is littered with old photos and documents, some showing early sketches that one can imagine evolving into the basis for some of Geisel’s more famous characters and creatures. Other papers on the table and hung framed on the walls show his unique sense of humor, witty business style and his devotion to family and friends.

The third floor gives a level of insight into a writer’s mind rarely available for a virtuoso. One handwritten note, dripping with humor, addresses the writing process: “With or without eyedrops, writing and drawing is an unpleasant experience which I find myself avoiding. I am thinking of taking up paper hanging or mushroom farming as a new profession.”

Since the museum is new and busy, timed advance tickets are available online. But because the Dr. Seuss museum is located within the expansive Springfield Museum complex, a ticket for the Seuss museum also provides access to the other museums on property, which includes art museums, a science museum and more.
We enjoyed wandering through the science museum, gawking at the massive T-Rex sculpture and fossilized dinosaur bones. There was also a small but interactive section on the Earth and the solar system, including telescopes, a black hole and an earthquake table.

But Dr. Seuss was the highlight.

As we finished our visit and strolled out, back through the sweeping bright blue archway, I thought of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss lines, from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish:

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”


No comments:

Post a Comment