The Springfield Museums, as the name implies, is not just one museum but an amalgam of five. The museums include the Springfield Science Museum, the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the Connecticut Valley History Museum, the G.W.V. Art Museum, and the Wood Museum of Springfield History. Four of the museums are structured around the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. The Wood Museum of Springfield History is located just across the street. The museums are located at 21 Edwards St. in Springfield, MA. None of the museums are very large and therefore are a great way to introduce your children to museum visiting. A ticket, allowing you to enter each of the museums, can be purchased from $12.50 for adults to free for children under two (These prices are current as of 10/25/10. Correct prices and times of operation can be found on the Springfield Museums website or by calling their information line at 1-800-625-7738.) Parking is free and close by.
Some of the exhibits that we particularly enjoyed during our visit were the Currier and Ives collection at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Art, the Plaster Cast Collection at the GWV Art Museum, and mining activity offered in the Springfield Science Museum. The Fine Art Museum also led to a very lively debate about exactly what is art and is modern art as legitimate as some of the realistic forms of art. The Fine Art museum also allows you to see some up and coming artists in their Community Gallery where local artists can petition to exhibit their work. When we were there, Kris Ludwig was showing an exhibit called “The Art of Introspection”. The kids were especially fascinated and long debated the reality of his paintings showing bricks on crushed paper. While his paintings showed the paper holding up to the crushing the kids discussed the truth to that proposal and enjoyed the artist’s attention to detail. At the GWV Art Museum, the children were in awe of plaster cast statues. Although not the original statues themselves, these plaster casts did not lose their majesty in translation. Some sculptures stood well over our heads and some spanned several yards across. They represented gods and goddess, Biblical prophets, and mythological creatures. The mining at the Science Museum cost a few extra dollars and was not part of their regular admission, but was probably the boys’ favorite activity of the day. For a few dollars I purchased a bag of silt which the boys were able to pan through to find a variety of gems. They were given a pamphlet which helped them to identify their finds and they were able to keep what they found. You could also chose packets that contained fossils. The hands-on nature of this project definitely peeked there interest.
Although there is a small convenience food area located in the Welcome Center by the Science Museum and the gift shop, the snacks and drinks are fairly limited and purchased from a machine. I would strongly recommend that if you plan to attend during a meal time that you pack a lunch and plan to eat it in the Dr. Seuss courtyard. Your children will love to see the life size Horton and get their picture taken with the Cat in the Hat.
The museums also offer a series of additional activities that you may wish to look into. During school vacations and in the summer there are camps that your school age children may enjoy. They also offer family programs, Scout events, and birthday parties. In addition, you may find classes and travel that the museums offer interesting. The classes and travel generally relate to the subject matter of the five museums. Currently they have classes planned in watercolor, card making, pastel portrait painting, stories about tea, and the history of Christmas and Feasts. Classes require preregistration and a fee. Their current travel plans include trips as close as New York City and as far as France.
As programs, fees, and exhibits change, plan to check their website as you plan your visit. Furthermore, note that the Connecticut Valley History Museum is currently closed; however, the genealogy library is available in the Wood Museum of Springfield History during the reinstallation process. The Springfield Museums are easily accessible from route 91 and are a perfect way to introduce your children to the world around them. They are small enough to keep the kids attention, but have deep enough collections and programs that even well traveled adults will enjoy them. The Springfield Museums should definitely be added to your next trip to Massachusetts.