INDIANAPOLIS — There is a beehive of activity taking place at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum in preparation for the opening of the “Power of Children” exhibit on Nov. 10.
The exhibit focuses on the lives of three children that had an impact on how the world views discrimination and prejudice. It starts with the story of Anne Frank during World War II, Ruby Bridges who broke the color barrier in the South during the civil rights movement and ends with former Kokomo resident Ryan White’s battle with AIDS.
The exhibit features the attic space where Frank and her family hid during the Nazi occupation of Holland; the New Orleans classroom where Bridges was the first African-American student to attend classes; and a recreation of White’s bedroom in the Cicero home he shared with his mother and sister.
Workers were busy on Thursday working on video display screens, erecting signs and painting while museum curators were placing items in the three exhibit areas.
Donna Lolla, director of public relations at the museum, said the dedication ceremony will start in the main lobby at 9:40 a.m. People will be asked to hold hands and be guided to the “Power of Children” exhibit by U.S. Marshals, much in the same way Bridges was guided to her classroom.
Curators working to recreate White’s bedroom were helped by photographs of his actual bedroom from his mother, Jeannie White-Ginder.
White died in 1990 at the age of 18 after contracting AIDS through a blood transfusion. A foundation has been formed in his name to continue to educate people about the disease.
Andrea Hughes, educator and curator for the American Collection at the museum, was placing items in the recreated White bedroom. Locations of items were first marked with a yellow piece of paper and then the actual item was set, according to the photographs.
“We have a lot more to put in,” Hughes said. “We have been working on this for a few days.”
Not all of the items taken from the bedroom will be on display, but will be rotated into the exhibit, she said.
“There are certain things we want out all the time,” Hughes said. “Like his big fuzzy slippers which he wore all the time because he was always cold.”
The curators are working with technicians setting up the lighting. Hughes said items will be lit and a narrator will explain the significance of each.
“We want it to be as close as possible,” she said. “It is starting to feel like his room.”
Hughes has been working on the exhibit for several years.
“It is exciting to see it all come together,” Hughes said.
Hughes said White’s mother has been helpful in answering questions about items in the bedroom.
There is an autographed photograph of Elton John, along with a stuffed bear and cap the entertainer gave to White. The exhibit includes a box of letters received, a photograph of Jesus Christ, lots of posters of cars and movie stars and a large collection of G.I. Joe items.
“I’m anxious to see what she (Ginder-White) thinks of the exhibit,” Hughes said. “We have had these items for seven years. I will also be anxious to see how people visiting the exhibit react to it.
“This is different than what we have done before,” she said. “We’re anticipating the reaction from people.”
Curator Janna Bennett said there were mock-ups of the 14 display cases in the exhibit in addition to the three main rooms to determine how they would appear.
“All next week there are special events planned for donors and teachers,” she said. “They will get to see everything ahead of time.”
Bennett said, as a test, school groups will be allowed to view the exhibit before it opens to the public.
“We want to see how the exhibit flows and what people are looking at,” she said. “We may have to try other ways to get people to focus on certain parts of the exhibit.”
Bennett said the museum has been in contact with test families during the process to help with the flow and design of the exhibit.
“This can seem overwhelming,” Hughes said of the exhibit. “These are three children that changed the world with the help of others. We want children to know that they can help.”
A part of the exhibit will allow children to make promises on how they want to help change their communities, she said.
“Those promises will be placed on display,” Hughes said. “A child can see what their promise is to help bring about change.”
Ken de la Bastide can be reached at (765) 454 -8580 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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