Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wizard of Oz Children's Museum Traveling Exhibit

The Merry Old Land of Oz has been condensed into a 2,500 square foot sensory immersion experience courtesy of Warner Brothers Consumer Products, SPARKS, and the Miami Children's Museum. After two years in development, the traveling exhibit debuted February of 2010 in Miami. The tour has proved so popular some venues had repeated bookings.

Visitors are greeted by the emblematic ruby slippers and a theater marquee with posters inspired by vintage advertisements leaving no doubt you are on your way to Oz. First, at the "Meet the Movie" station, you can introduce children to The Wizard of Oz or remind them of the movie they are about to experience hands on.  You can read along while pressing a button to light up the corresponding scene.

Then the land of Oz is divided into six sections with activities tailored to that particular area.  The Gale Farm is  naturally geared towards farming, nature, and illusion.  There is a "petting farm" for children to feel animal hides and hear the sounds they make.  There's a cow to be milked and children can gather eggs for Aunt Em.  Professor Marvel's wagon is there to illustrate the magic of optical illusion.  Just before you enter Dorothy's house here is a simulator where children can get an up close look at a tornado.  The floor in Dorothy's house is slanted giving a feeling of slight disequilibrium. There's a wheel to crank to spin the house through the tornado and a ball that rolls up.  A really cute touch is Dorothy's bookshelf with titles such as The Encyclopedia of Little Dogs, Classic Prairie Tales, Life in Tornado Alley, and 1001 Gingham Dress Patterns.

Munchkinland focuses on the arts.  There's Munchkin huts with little activities inside, a music station, a mix and match station, you can build Glinda's crown, listen to yourself with the Munchkin voice enhancer, and there's a rainbow that can be taken apart and reassembled.

Upon leaving Munchkinland, you come to the Crossroads to meet The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion.  In this area children can discover personal strengths and values just like Dorothy's friends in the movie.  Children can put faces on the Scarecrow or work through a maze or challenge themselves with the book of brain teasers.  The Tin Man is waiting for someone to set his heart alight.  Bravery can be tested with a crawl through a dark tunnel.  In another wonderful touch of cuteness, children can brush the Cowardly Lion's mane.

Then we come to the spooky, not scary, castle of The Wicked Witch of the West.  This area is for physical challenges. Children can scale the walls with climbing stones or ropes. They are able to crawl inside to find the broomstick or they can pedal Miss Gulch's bicycle.  One of my favorite things about the exhibit is the Wicked Witch is referred to as a bully. Especially since bullying is such a problem in schools. Hopefully children can learn by Dorothy's example and are encouraged stand up to bullies too.  

We end the story at the Emerald City with lessons in light, wonder, and science.  There are kaleidoscopes and prisms to bend or reflect light and make rainbows.  Children can wave a wand to make the great and powerful Oz appear.  They can also mix colored lights to produce varying hues for the Horse of a Different Color. 


Signage with educational messages and values from movie moments are displayed throughout the exhibit.

The Wizard of Oz Traveling Children's Exhibit is currently at the Portland Children's Museum in Portland Oregon. Their target ages are 2 - 6, but any child who likes The Wizard of Oz should enjoy it. This would also be a marvelous way to introduce children to the movie.  In the hour to hour and a half we were there, the room got pretty crowded and children seemed to be having a ball running from area to area.  We even saw some Dorothys in costume. All in all it looks like a great experience for little ones.  

Unfortunately, my photographs can not do this exhibit justice. You step into the display area and it's immediate Oz sensory overload.  Colors and marvels  and sounds, oh my!  It's always beautiful to see Oz brought to life and I'm forever overwhelmed.  I needed a minute to acclimate myself.  

Before you get to the museum exhibit area, museum staff took it upon their clever selves to make some decor of their own. They yellow brick road starts on the floor and winds up and along the walls. The cloth tornado was really ingenious.  

The one major drawback is that there was no exclusive merchandise created to accompany the exhibit.  Part of the endurance of Oz is the memorabilia children can carry with them and cherish. That aside, it is my sincere hope the experience of this exhibit will create fond and lasting memories of the Wizard of Oz.  

The exhibit is here until January 18 2015.  Portland Children's Museum, 4015 SW Canyon Rd. Portland,OR 97221   (503) 223-6500      Located in Washington Park right next to the Oregon Zoo.

A BIG THANK YOU to Emily Dang at the Portland Children's Museum for taking the time out of her day to give us a tour and answer our questions.  And to Mike Neufeld from the Miami Children's Museum for tour dates and really beautiful exhibit photos which can be seen here:

Future Tour Dates:

Spring and Summer 2015       Glazer Children's Museum    

Fall and Winter 2015       Miami Children's Museum 

Spring 2016      Orlando Science Center 

Summer 2016    Minnetrista 

Fall and Winter 2016      still open

Spring 2017     Mayborn Museum Complex 

Summer 2017     tentative Minnesota location

Fall and Winter 2017      Final Exhibition   Miami Children's Museum

Local Coverage: