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The ‘Silk Road’ goes interactive

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

The Pacific Asia Museum recently opened “Journeys: The Silk Road,” a new interactive exhibit….Amelia Chapman, curator of education, pushed for a spot that would reach out to people beyond reading and looking at artifacts. “We decided to make it a interactive exhibit, a more family-friendly exhibit,” Chapman said. “People don’t just want to walk around a museum and look at things in cases.”

Visitors can take the learning from this space out to the rest of the museum, where all of the artifacts on display came from Asia or the Pacific Islands, and follow the connections. There is no set way to explore “Journeys: The Silk Road.” Almost everything is hands-on and can be enjoyed in any order.

In the center of the space is a gorgeous tent lush with overstuffed pillows. Parents can just relax here or select a book from a basket to read with their child. The tent also serves as a fun spot for interactive play. On the first Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m., visitors can gather here for Silk Road Storytime as well.

“My favorite part is the tent experience,” Chapman said. “I think it’s gorgeous, and I’ve seen people enjoying it. It makes people feel comfortable that they can have a seat on the floor if they’ve got a little 2-year-old, it’s fine. It makes them feel welcome and at home.”

There are also six character stations, each with a basket of clothes and hats to try on. To help with dress-up, there are also cards showing how the attire should look. Each stop provides background on its character. Children can take their turns at being a dancer, artisan, camel handler, trader, silk maker and one real person: Xuanzang, a Buddhist monk who went on an epic 15-year pilgrimage from China to India.

Additional items, such as coins, drums and a huge stuffed animal camel, encourage kids to play out their roles, imagining what they would be doing along the Silk Road. There’s a mirror so the children can see themselves in costume. It also is a spot to learn more about Buddha. “It shows how ideas traveled,” Chapman said. “Buddha, of course came from India, but he’s represented in all different cultures.” The material corner offers items to touch, as well as magnifying glasses for a closer look at carved ivory, silkworm cocoons and a gold-covered bowl.

Near the door is a satellite map with three overlays showing the contintent as it is now, where the old Silk Road was and which cities were on the route and what there key products were.”Journeys: The Silk Road” will continue to evolve, chaging exhibits over time.

Michelle Mills staff writer Pasedena Star-News

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