Carlos Museum encourages families to get SmART about art together

By Allison Hutton | Emory Report | June 28, 2019

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Andrea Perez Ramirez and her mother Lida Ramirez dig deeper into the Michael C. Carlos Museum exhibits with the help of SmARTy packs.

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Research shows that museum visitors want an interactive experience, and the Michael C. Carlos Museum is always looking for new ways to help children and adults engage with art in a meaningful way. This year they’ve added SmARTy Packs to their list of activities, making it  easier than ever for children and their families to have memorable hands-on experiences.

Introduced in March, SmARTy Packs, funded by the David R. Clare and Margaret C. Clare Foundation, are tote bags that focus families’ time in the galleries with themed activities suitable for ages five and up. SmARTy Packs are available to check out for free at the information desk by leaving a driver’s license.

Each pack has three activities that lead families to works of art in the galleries, directs their conversation and learning, and provides instructions and materials for hands-on activities. The current packs include:

  • Slither through the Galleries: Snakes in Ancient Egypt sends visitors in search of images of snakes on coffins and relief sculptures. QR codes link to videos of the types of snakes ancient Egyptians would have experienced in daily life. By watching these videos on a parent’s cellphone, children and adults can better understand snakes the way ancient Egyptians did. 
  • Athena and Her City: A Guide to Coins in the Greek Collection focuses on the goddess of wisdom and other members of the Greek Pantheon, telling the story of Athena and Poseidon’s competition to become the patron deity of the city of Athens. Children are introduced to imagery of the goddess by making their own Athenian coin, modeled after those on view in the gallery. 
  • Puzzling Pigments, the most recent addition to the packs, helps visitors understand how and why many works of art in the Greek and Roman galleries look very different today than when they were first created. Activities in the pack include a puzzle that reveals what one of the museum’s marble reliefs may have looked around the year 14 AD, a close-looking exercise involving a statue of the muse Terpsichore and an untarnished piece of bronze that visitors can compare to oxidized objects in the gallery. 

Parents and children have responded enthusiastically to SmARTy Packs, with more than 100 families checking them out since late March. April Benton, mother of Bryce, eight, and Sadie, five, shared that she was grateful for a way to get her kids excited about history in a hands-on way.

Parent Diane Nathanson enjoyed the experience as much as her children did. “SmARTy Packs reflect the way adults as well as kids want to explore a museum,” Nathanson told museum staff. 

This summer, museum educators are at work creating new activities whose themes include Native American moccasins, body adornment, and the fantastic creatures found throughout the artwork featured in the museum’s special exhibition “Through a Glass, Darkly”: Allegory and Faith in Netherlandish Prints from Lucas van Leyden to Rembrandt, on view Aug. 31 through Dec. 1. 

Emory faculty, staff and students always receive free admission to the museum, and free admission days are currently scheduled through the end of 2019 in celebration of the museum’s centennial.