History on Wheels: Suffolk County Historical Society's Moveable Museum

Written by Vickie Moller  |  18. April 2013

“Structures and Cultures” is a Suffolk County Historical Society exhibit featuring authentic artifacts from four nomadic tribes from around the world, along with interactive displays and videos.

But this exhibit cannot be viewed at the Historical Society’s museum in Riverhead—it moves from place to place in a 37-foot retrofitted Winnebago donated to the Suffolk County Historical Society by the American Museum of Natural History last year. The 250-square foot walk-in exhibit is designed to travel throughout Suffolk County to bring two-day programs to community events and schools.

“We’re thrilled with this generous gift from the American Museum of Natural History,” said Suffolk County Historical Society executive director, Kathyrn Curran. “The Moveable Museum program will allow us to bring educational programming from the [historical society] out to the community in a fun, interactive and instructive manner.”

“It’s like we’re training young Indiana Joneses,” said Curran. “It is a bridge to communities and neighborhoods.”

Last month, the Moveable Museum’s debut voyage thrilled students at the Sachem School District. Second-graders from Nokomis Elementary School in Holtsville viewed spearheads, wampum beads, pottery, shelters made of grass mats and other artifacts from nomadic tribes, including Long Island’s native Algonquins.

“It’s awesome,” said second-grader Adrianna Sigler, 8. “There’s all these things you can see about different countries and what people do … you can see it in person and explore.”

“There is nothing better than a hands-on experience -- seeing things, touching things and asking questions at the same time,” said Nokomis principal Gloria Flynn. “It makes it a real event for them, something that they remember, as opposed to a piece of text.”

The fiscal constraints that many school districts face today and the amount of time teachers must spend preparing students for state exams have made field trips less feasible, Flynn continued.

“We could never take them on a field trip to see something like this, because we are being very stringent about what we do in our district now,” she said. “It [the museum] is a gift.”

The Moveable Museum display is available at a fee of $10 per student and includes curriculum materials and two educators, one to serve as a tour guide and the other to provide an introductory in-class lesson.

And because the exhibit meets New York State standards in geography, world history, economics, arts and English language arts, teachers can easily incorporate it into their lesson plans.

“It fulfills a need,” said anthropologist and archaeologist Lisa Cordani-Stevenson, who also serves as the lead teacher for the museum. “They're getting the same information that I would teach to adults, but I’m doing it with [the materials] in their hands, step by step.”

Officials say that the Moveable Museum will offer rotating exhibits and serve more than 19,000 students each year.

What do you think about the new museum on wheels? Include your comments below or on our Long Island Living Discussion Forum.

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