In This Issue
News In Brief


Feature Article:
Lights, Camera, Color

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Program Highlights 
Here's a sampling of the exciting events coming up this quarter.
For more, visit our Calendar of Events.

Silly Science Halloween
Thursday, 10/31 
Explore the scientific side of this spooky holiday - peek at x-rays, touch real skulls and bones, and investigate wormy dirt. Costumes encouraged!
Free with admission
More info 
Block Printing Workshops
11/3, 11/24 & 12/8
Learn the skill of print making. Ink up a plate to make some prints with us, then take it home to make more!
$10/members, $12/visitors
More info

My Grown-Ups and Me: Dance it out with Nyiesha
Sundays, 11/3 & 12/8

Get ready to boogie down and bust a move together. Nyiesha will teach you some cool dance steps for the whole family to try.
Free with admission
More info

The Velveteen Rabbit
December 13-23
"There are two ways to become real," the Skin Horse tells the Velveteen Rabbit, who wants more than anything to become real. "The first is when you are real to one special child, and the second is when you are real to the world." With love, devotion and a little bit of the Toy Fairy's magic, can the Velveteen Rabbit find the love he needs to become real? Join us for a performance of Margery Williams' classic holiday story.
$8/members, $9/visitors
More info

New Year's at Noon Pajama Party
Tuesday, 12/31
This party has become a Maine family tradition, and it's no wonder why! You get the festive atmosphere of New Year's Eve without the late bedtime. Wear your jammies and come well before noon to make a hat or a noisemaker so you'll be ready when the balloons drop!
Free with admission

Family In Need Program Donors: September 30, 2012 - October 1, 2013

Admission Sponsorships, Scholarship Memberships & Theatre Scholarships

Justin & Rachael Alfond

Gary Bangor & Christine Carter

Bangor Savings Bank

Bill & Beth Becker

Caleb Bell

Melissa & Michael Bourque

Jim & Julia Brady

Len Clarke

Morgan & Christina Cuthbert

Justin & Gia Davis

Deborah Deatrick & Scott Vile

Christian & Anna DeLuca

John & Kristen DeQuattro

Valerie F. DeQuattro

Staci Dill

Donelson Family

John & Melissa Duffy

Jon Edwards & Nancy Fox

John Everett

The Evergreen Foundation

Flatbread Company

Jennifer Fultz

Joseph & Dawn Gerding

Barbee & Andrew Gilman

Goodwin & Rosalind Gilman

Eleanor Goldberg

Quincy Hentzel

Sarah & Gordon Holman

Arlene Jacobs

Jennifer Jacobs & Garrett Grunewald

Stephen & Shay Kaminski

Christine & Stephen Kelly

Victoria Kuhn & David Addison

Tabitha & Chris Lamontagne

Marcia Leander & Harry Hadiaris

Chris & Trish LeFevre

Robert Levine & Vilean Taggersell

Jennifer Libby & Lori Voornas

MacKinnon-Hoban Family

James & Rebecca Marcisso

Sam & Karen Marcisso

Allison McLaughlin & Rick Servidio

Sarah & Geoff Mitchell

C.B. & Suzanne Olson

John & Erin Olson

Louise Packness & David Moltz

Mary, Jessie & Teddy Pereira, in memory of Anthony Pereira

Chris & Michelle Philbrook

Ula & Philip Polsky

David & Lise Pratt

Cathy & Lance Prichard

Bethany Record & Wes Corbin

Daniel & Lindsay Richman

Sanford & Helaine Roberts

Donna Roggenthien & Ron Leeking

Elizabeth & Tom Rosen

Paula & Brian Saabye

Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution

John & Janice Siegle

Ingrid Solomon

Mr. and Mrs. Phineas Sprague

William R. Stokes & Diane E. Doyen

Eric & Wendy Suehrstedt

Regan Sweeney & Lauren Guite

Matthew Tonello

United Insurance

Unum Matching Gifts Program

Peter Watson

Sandy Wyman

Michele & Mark Zajkowski



REINVENTION  feature-intro

Lights, Camera, Color:
In the reimagined Camera Obscura exhibit, 10th Century Technology Meets 21st Century Kids


The technology behind the Camera Obscura - the reflection of light into a dark space, creating a projected image - is more than 1,000 years old. How do you make that feel new in 2013 for kids who are accustomed to high-tech screens that fit in their pockets? That was the challenge the we faced when creating Lights, Camera, Color: Exploring the Camera Obscura, a reinvented exhibit on the Museum's third floor.

NEWS IN BRIEFNewsinbrief  


Photo by Lisa Freeman Early in 2013, the Museum & Theatre began a partnership with Portland Conservatory of Music to develop music classes for children as young as 18 months. In September, young music pupils embarked on the most ambitious course yet: a ten-week Music Pups class for young toddlers and their families. Our first class of nine Pups, under the direction of Miss Tammis, the Conservatory's early childhood specialist, will finish their Lion Collection course in November, . A three-week Jingle Pups class has just been announced for December - subscribe to our email list (be sure to select Performing Arts Classes & Workshops) to be alerted when registration opens. These popular classes fill up fast!

Staff member Shana recording observations to inform the development of a new exhibit. 
If you've visited recently, you may have encountered a surprise within the What About Whales? exhibit: a big blue pile of oversize blocks, cylinders and 3D shapes that can be stacked, conjoined, built and rebuilt in infinite configurations. While playing amid the blocks, keen observers may have spotted something else -
Museum & Theatre staff members perched atop the whale-watching dock scribbling notes. So... what's it all about?

These new blocks will be the foundation of a brand new exhibit coming to the Big Gallery in early 2014. The new exhibit - as yet unnamed - will feature lots of these blocks, as well as elements unique to our own space. In addition to being a lot of fun, the exhibit will encourage three kinds of development: physical (stacking, carrying, climbing), mental (spacial reasoning, problem-solving skills, open-ended learning) and social (working collaboratively with other children).

Every new exhibit we create requires months of research, and that's where staff observations come into play. Over the next few weeks and months, we'll be experimenting with the blocks simply by observing how visitors of all ages interact with them. When you see the blocks out, feel free to play with them (or not!) any way you like, for as long as you like. We'll just be jotting down a few notes about the interaction we observe. With a concept this exciting, we want to build an exhibit that makes the best possible use of the space and meets the needs of visitors of all ages. You're helping us make this exhibit amazing - just by playing. Thanks for your help! 

Reba (left) and Louisa at Artisphere, where the IMTAL conference was held.
In early October, Theatre Artistic Director Reba Short and Educator Louisa Donelson traveled to Washington, DC to take part in the International Museum Theatre Alliance (IMTAL) conference. The trip was part of our year-long initiative to integrate theatre more fully into the museum experience. The year-long project, funded by the Davis Family Foundation, has given us opportunities to prototype interactive theatre experiences and to include performance-based elements like puppetry and storytelling in our educational programs.

In addition to learning a lot from other Museum and Theatre professionals (including keynote speaker Roscoe Orman - Gordon from Sesame Street!), Reba presented her own findings from developing and prototyping the interactive program A Thousand Pails of Water. If your family has had an opportunity to help young  Yukio (played by Reba or Sean, our Theatre and Play Facilitator) aid a whale in distress, you know the story well. Using our life-size model Istar, our staff interprets Ronald Roy's story of a young boy who
Children line up to help Yukio (played by Sean McGuire) pour buckets of water over a beached whale during A Thousand Pails of Water.
 saves a beached whale by pouring water on the creature until the tide comes in. Visitors join in and become part of the story, playing the neighbors, classmates and family members who pour bucket after bucket over the whale. Even though Istar can't be animated like a traditional puppet, storytelling brings her to life for visitors.

Reba and Louisa returned to the Museum & Theatre bursting with exciting new ideas. Keep an eye out for more elements of drama when you attend programs this fall and winter!
In the News

Did you make it to our Pop Up Playscapes events this summer in Kennedy Park and on the Easter Promenade? If you missed these crazy cardboard kingdoms, you can still get a peek at them: WCSH 6 covered the events in both July and in August; The Forecaster featured the events and interviewed our own Louisa Donelson, who developed the project with funding from the Maine Community Foundation's Cumberland County Community Building Fund.
Comings & Goings


Welcome, Marnie!
As of August, you may have noticed a new face at the front desk (and in lots of other places!). Marnie Williamson joined our staff this summer, working at both the front desk (where you have probably seen her stamping hands and welcoming members and visitors) and in the operations department (where you might see her doing just about anything, from exhibit repair to light bulb replacement!). With a breadth of non-profit experience, Marnie arrives at the Museum & Theatre with a wide range of skills and an enthusiasm for learning


Early this fall we also said farewell to three longtime staff members - Chris Fitze in Exhibits & Operations, Beth Cradock in Administration, and Renee Myhaver at the Front Desk - all of whom went on to exciting opportunities serving other terrific Portland non-profits. We wish them well in their new adventures! 


We recently received support from the MainStreet Foundation for a series of interdisciplinary educational programs for homeless and recently homeless parents and their preschool-age children. These programs will help struggling families surmount three of the risk factors that contribute to the cycle of poverty: lack of access to quality early childhood education; poor or insufficient nutrition; and lack of a healthy, stable parent-child bond. These workshops will use the Museum & Theatre's unique exhibits and resources to provide lessons in literacy and nutrition that encourage parents and children to engage with each other - emotionally, verbally, physically and above all, playfully. The program will help up to ten Portland families living in poverty develop strong, healthy relationships, placing their children on the path to a more stable future.
Our printable calendars are an asset to any family fridge or bulletin board. Print them at home (click each image below) or pick up the current month's calendar on your next visit.

Our events schedule is subject to change. For the most current schedule, as well as online event registration and ticketing, visit our calendar of events page or follow us on Facebook to get the latest updates.

FEATURE ARTICLE spotlight-on-joy 
Lights, Camera, Color:
In the reimagined Camera Obscura exhibit, 10th Century Technology Meets 21st Century Kids
(Continued from top. Read intro here.)

Alhazen (965-1040 AD).
The year is 1020.

There are about 300 million people on earth. The city of Portland, Maine won't be established for another seven centuries. Recent innovations include locks (allowing the creation of canals) and fire arrows. The Middle East is in a golden age of scientific achievement, with scientists making notable progress in the fields of medicine, astronomy and physics. The scientist Alhazen (also known as Ibn al-Haytham) has made an important discovery about
how people see.


Until 1000 A.D., people believed that eyes sent out rays of light, and those rays formed a picture. They believed that the picture disappeared when eyes were closed because eyelids blocked the light from shooting out. After many experiments with light, Alhazen correctly theorized that eyes work the other way around, receiving light to create an image. His work offered the first clear description and early analysis of the device that came to be known as a camera obscura (latin for dark chamber): a box with a small hole into which reflected light rays pass to create an image of what is outside. He used the camera obscura throughout his lifelong study of optics; his work corrected several antiquated theories and predated many Western optics discoveries by hundreds of years.


Depiction of a camera obscura used for recreation. Paul Sandby, Roslin Castle, Midlothian, ca. 1780, Gouache on medium laid paper, mounted on board, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon collection. 

The camera obscura played a vital role in art and photography for centuries to come. During the Renaissance, the camera obscura helped artists understand the concept of perspective, taking painting from the flat compositions of the Middle Ages to the more lifelike, three-dimensional images we see after the 1400s. In the 16th and 17th centuries, using portable, tented camera obscuras for sketching became popular for both artists and hobbyists.  


Starting in the 1700s, many scientists were working simultaneously to find a way to make the images projected by the camera obscura permanent. Their experiments with light project and silver salts, iodide and nitrate led to photography as we know it. Louis Daguerre's "Daguerrotypes" are perhaps the most well-known form of early photography although amateur scientist William Talbot's obscure "Talbotypes" were perhaps a more direct precursor to modern film photography.


Throughout history, the camera obscura has played an important role as artists and scientists sought to record and understand the world around us. 


The year is 1994.

About 5.6 billion people live on earth, and about 1.25 million of them live in the state of Maine. Less than 20% of the US population has a cell phone; only 14% of Americans report that they use the internet. In Portland, the Sea Dogs are playing their very first season, and the Pirates are about to play their second. The Children's Museum of Maine has been at its Free Street location for one year, with exhibits on the first floor (the second floor is mostly undeveloped) attracting more than 120,000 visitors. This year, the Museum is opening a brand new exhibit: the Camera Obscura.  

The original Focus Room.
Photo by Claudia Dricot.

Frederic L. Thompson - chair of the capital campaign that raised of $2.5 million for the Museum's new location - secured a donation from Kodak to build a periscopic camera obscura on the Museum's third floor, taking advantage of the cupola that tops the historic building. While a simple camera obscura can be created with a box and a pin, Thompson had a vision for a more complex device that would provide a more memorable visual experience. Though our camera obscura still uses natural light alone to create the image, a 12 inch lens inside the cupola helps project a more focused image, and a 20 inch mirror rotates mechanically, offering a 360-degree view.

Depending on light and weather conditions, visitors can observe everything from a flock of seagulls flying over Congress Square to the top of Mount Washington, nearly 100 miles away. A camera obscura of this scope and quality is rare - similar examples can be found in San Francisco, Edinburgh and a handful of other cities - and the exhibit drew the appreciation of Camera Obscura enthusiasts, art historians, photographers and travel writers (the exhibit has been featured in AAA Magazine and the Boston Globe).

A feature in the Boston Globe in 2008.

The room just outside the camera obscura (called the Focus Room) offered a few hands-on optics exercises and a wealth of historic context for the camera obscura, from Alhazen to the light shows of the early 20th century. However, because of the delicate equipment that moves the rotating mirror, the exhibit's central component was available only by guided tour, which generally took place twice daily. While popular with older children and parents, some families with younger children - due to short attention spans or challenges of navigating up to the third floor - visited the Museum for years without taking advantage of the hidden gem at the top of the stairs.


The year is 2013.

There are over 7 billion people on earth and 1.3 million call Maine home. 91% of US adults now have cell phones (as do 78% of kids over 12). More than half of those are smartphones, meaning most Americans have internet access in their pockets (85% use the internet in some form). In Portland, locals are enjoying the city's trendy status thanks to the many accolades it's received in recent years, from being named America's Foodiest Small Town to having one of the 12 best children's museums in the US. The Children's Museum of Maine is now the Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine, and it's celebrating two decades at its Free Street location - as well as a new chapter in the story of one of its most distinctive exhibits.  


An early sketch that included the shadow wall (top) and the completed shadow wall in use.

Knowing that the Camera Obscura was one of the Museum & Theatre's most versatile exhibits, staff has long been motivated to bring more people to the third floor to see it. By the fall of 2012, the exhibits and education staff had developed some ideas for renovations that could excite younger visitors and inspire the Museum & Theatre's core audience to learn more about optics and light. The staff again approached Fred Thompson, this time via the Rines/Thompson Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, with a proposal. In early 2013, the Fund funded the Museum & Theatre's proposal to renovate the exhibits, expanding upon the existing educational content, adding and updating interactive components and getting more visitors - especially young visitors - in the door. The goal: make a 1,000-year-old technology appealing to children growing up in the digital age. 

The key to attracting young visitors: accessibility. Logistically, that meant modifying the actual Camera Obscura itself; previously open only during guided tours, the Camera Obscura is now open throughout the day; Museum visitors can get a peek at Portland from a room with no windows any time they like. To preserve the exhibit and ensure that it will be here for years to come, the rotation controls are locked except during guided tours (still given daily). The projection is far from static, though - the cityscape is constantly alive with activity along Congress Street and beyond. Depending on light and where the lens is directed, visitors can observe everything from a flock of seagulls flying over Congress Square to the top of Mount Washington, nearly 100 miles away.

An early prototype of the tented camera obscura used in observations.


Accessibility is a psychological and developmental challenge as well, so the two-room exhibit is now filled with bright, new, kid-friendly components. The component that inspires the most dancing,

wiggling and giggling is the shadow wall: a bright white wall in a dark room with adjustable colored lights where children can play with their shadow and layer the light to create new colors. The exhibit also features a light table surrounded by low stools attracts toddlers eager to stack blocks with sheer color inserts to play with projection. New model camerae obscurae throughout the exhibit invite visitors to experiment with focus and find the parallels between the inner workings of the eye and the camera.


During the development process, each component was prototyped and observed in action. Although prototypes may appear rough around the edges, they provide important insights into how an exhibit will appeal to children at different developmental stages and whether it will work at all. Some experiments were taken out of the plan when staff observed that they did not hold children's interest or inspire them to make connections; other new elements were inspired by offhand remarks or unexpected responses to prototypes during the observation

period. Chris Sullivan, the Museum & Theatre's Director of Exhibits, worked with staff to develop a series of prototype exhibit components; staff observed visitors interacting with the prototypes and used those observations to inform the final exhibit - although Sullivan is hesitant to use the word "final."  


Experimenting with a model camera obscura in the new exhibit.

"Our exhibits are always growing and evolving," Chris says. "Visitors are learning from the exhibits, but we learn from our visitors, too." The prototyping spiral - a series of exercises in design, testing, analysis and redesign - is an increasingly popular in the museum field, particularly children's museums and science centers, which thrive on durable, hands-on exhibits that inspire open-ended learning.


At the opening celebration on October 16, the revitalized exhibit seemed to have met its goal, mesmerizing toddlers and preschoolers (along with a few big kids visiting from out of town) who darted happily between the shadow wall, the light table and the camera obscura itself. Those seeking a more historical perspective - typically parents - picked up copies of the new background take-home brochure that details the history of the camera obscura phenomenon.

(Left to right): Director of Exhibits Chris Sullivan, former Board chair and exhibit founder Frederic L. Thompson and Executive Director Suzanne Olson at the opening celebration on October 16, 2013. 


We will continue to offer guided tours of the Camera Obscura; tours offer a more in-depth history of the phenomenon and include a demonstration of the periscopic Camera Obscura's rotating view of Portland and beyond. Tours are free with general museum admission and are also available separately for $4 per person. Call 207-828-1234 x231 or visit our calendar of events for scheduled tours.



For more images of the new exhibit Lights, Camera, Color: Exploring the Camera Obscura, visit our website.