Last weekend we visited the Discoveries exhibition and watched young visitors engage with our activity sheets for the first time. Children sat on the floor and drew their own ‘Wanted Poster’ ideas right next to the display of gold coins from the Pembroke Hoard, found hidden inside Pembroke College, Cambridge. Kids filled their ‘Keeping and Collecting’ pages with drawings of imagined collections of Lego, teeth, sea shells and even heads!
I was reminded of a feather collection I had as a child. It was made up of many types of feathers: broad and white from sea gulls, tiny and fluffy from small unnamed birds, grimy and grey from city pigeons, and oneshimmering blue spear from a giant macaw parrot. My feather collection represented a sample of the birds where I lived, but perhaps it was also a reflection of my interest in a realm just beyond my reach. The feathers left a trail for me to follow, traces of life elsewhere: up in the sky, above in the trees, or out over the sea.
I hope kids visiting the Discoveries exhibition will be able to spend time imagining the worlds represented by the objects on display; and in doing so become aware of experiences beyond their immediate reach. That is what it is to be an explorer. The discoveries are things you pick up along the way.