Collections were important to the early Museum, but, as a Boston Herald reporter observed in 1929, "Each costumed doll, each bright bird or each gay butterfly [is] not an end in itself, [but] a means of giving young visitors a livelier appreciation and a keener knowledge of the world." Children could try a spinning wheel, look through a telescope, and handle live animals. They could create their own displays of Museum objects, study rare artifacts from around the world, or present plays as a way to teach younger children. More than enjoyable natural or social history lessons, these activities developed skills in how to discover information and learn about the world.
In the 1960's, Michael Spock (Museum director 1962–85) led the institution in revolutionizing the traditional museum experience, getting objects out of cases and into children's hands in exhibit areas where children could interact, experiment, and follow their own curiosity. Hands–on learning is now a part of American education and we are proud to have had a "hand" in it from the beginning.
Today, after 100 years, Boston Children’s Museum engages children and families in joyful discovery experiences that instill an appreciation of our world, develop foundational skills, and spark a lifelong love of learning. As an early museum experience for children, our environment is informal, but our purpose is serious. We want children to grow up feeling secure and self–confident with respect for others and the natural world. We encourage imagination, curiosity, questioning, and realism. We provide opportunities for new insights, involvement with the world and understanding of human differences with world–class exhibits and programs.