My son was off from school for President's Day on Monday, so we took a family trip into Philadelphia to the Franklin Institute. We purchased a membership last February, so we had just another week to enjoy the membership benefits. We had not visited since the snowpocolypse hit, so we were due for another visit.
The Franklin Institute has an exhibit area that features special visiting programs. They seem to change about twice a year. The last ones that we enjoyed were Titanic and a Spy Exhibit. The current program is "One Day in Pompeii" and exhibit featuring artifacts and reproductions from Pompeii. My son really wanted to see it, so despite concerns that it might be a bit boring, we decided to buy the add on tickets. Membership gives a nice discount to the special exhibits. It was a lot of reading, but my son was patient and curious about the different things we saw.
The exhibit was well designed and despite being crowded, we were able to see everything we wanted to see. There were recreations of homes in Pompeii and examples of the way of life back in 79 AD. We discussed how long ago 79 AD was, since my son has a slight fascination with calendars at age six.
The last two parts of the exhibit features potentially frightening displays for young kids. The first part was a small room that visitors stood in with a large movie screen in front. A film demonstrating a time line of the two day eruption of Mount Vesuvius was shown, along with a loud soundtrack and fake smoke pouring into the room to simulate the volcanic ash. The end of the movie soundtrack was very loud as the volcano erupted and destroyed the city. This apparently frightened my son badly. He didn't let on much while there, but did say he didn't like it and did not want to see it again. Which is fine, since once you go through the exhibit you are unable to return to see things before the film room. (My son was up for at least two hours later that night with bad dreams. I didn't realize how scared he was until he couldn't sleep.)
The last room of the Pompeii exhibit was filled with plaster casts of people who perished in Pompeii. This was the room that fascinated me the most. We did move through this room quickly because I wasn't sure how it would affect my son. Apparently he was ok with the "dead people." What we learned about Pompeii was that when Mount Vesuvius erupted over the course of two days, it wasn't lava that covered and destroyed the city, but layers and layers of burning hot ash. It was so hot, that most people probably died immediately.
Following the exhibit, we visited a room that had two examples related to Mount Vesuvius. One display featured different types of rock, includig lava rocks of different consistencies. The other display was an example of what occured to the life on Pompeii and how archeologists were able to create casts of the deceased, using a plastic frog as the example. It was really interesting. I was always fascinating with Pompeii as a child but never knew much about it. The exhibit at the Franklin Institute was worth the trip!
After Pompeii, we visited some of our favortie parts of the museum, including the heart. I even got to see a partial disection of a sheep heart! After a year of fairly regular visits to the FI we acutally discovered three new areas that we had not explored before. The first was the observatory, where we were able to view sun spots via the Zeiss telescope.
We also explored Sir Issac's Loft, a great display of science and art with hands on activities, some of which I recall trying when I visited the FI as a child. The other new room we found was Kid Science, the Island of Elements. This was a room that reminded me of the Please Touch Museum, but with a science flare. It was designed for little kids under age 8, so it was perfect for my six year old.
We will most likely renew our membership this year, since there are several cool new exhibits opening this summer, including one on brains! It is definitely a good value for us and my son clearly is learning from his explorations there. One Day in Pompeii is on exhibit until April 27, 2014. If you have a chance it is a great exhibit to see!