Interactive exhibit especially for children

A colorful, interactive exhibit designed expressly for children - to help them understand and identify with what the Savior experienced - is now open at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City.

"Jesus Once Was a Little Child, a Little Child Like Me," will run for a year, concluding in September 1995."This exhibit is an opportunity to recognize, rejoice and celebrate the childlike, Christlike qualities in children of all ages," said Marjorie D. Conder, curator for the exhibit. "The more these qualities find place in our lives, the more joy for the individual, for the family and for ever-widening

circles." Sister Conder said it is the first exhibit of its kind, specifically oriented toward children under age 12.

"We recognize that in many important ways, Jesus was not like any other person who has lived on the earth," she said, "but there are still many parallels to Jesus' probable experiences as a child and the experiences of today's children everywhere."

Visitors to the exhibit are greeted with a title panel containing the words of the song by James R. Murray with music by Joseph Ballantyne from which the title was taken. A painting from the museum collection by Walter Rane shows the child Jesus with his father, Joseph, engaged in carpentry.

Just past the title panel is a Nativity setting. There, children are invited to wear costumes of shepherds, angels or wise men and sing along with recordings of "Away in a Manger" and "Jesus Once Was a Little Child."

Nearby is a panel reminding children that Jesus lived in heaven before He was born. Shown are the words of the Primary song by Janeen Jacob Brady, "I lived in heaven a long time ago, it is true. Lived there and loved there with people I know, so did you." Also displayed is the scripture, "Even before they were born, they . . . received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men." (D&C 136:56.)

Moving into a "home" area of the exhibit, young visitors can take part in carpentry and weaving, work activities in which Jesus perhaps participated as a boy. A panel reminds spectators that "Jesus learned to work and to help

others." An interactive panel displays drawings of a right and a wrong approach to various situations, such as helping a crying child or making fun of the child. Visitors are invited to press a button under what they deem to be the right approach. If they choose correctly a drawing of the sun lights up atop the panel.

In another area of the museum is a foot bridge in front of a large mural showing the out-of-doors. It features many sliding doors that may be opened to reveal animals of various kinds. The title over the mural proclaims, "Jesus loved this beautiful earth." The words to Anna Johnson's Primary song, "I Think the World Is Glorious," are displayed, as is the scripture, "Yea, all things that come of the earth . . . are made for the benefit and use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart." (D&C 59:18)

In that area is a small, open theater at which museum volunteers tell children that Jesus liked to read and hear stories from the scriptures. Then, the volunteers present the story of Noah's ark, using wooden cut-out figures that the children are invited to put in place.

A stylized replica of the Jerusalem temple's portico gives young visitors a chance to touch and go inside it. There, they can read the words of Janice Kapp Perry's song, "I'm trying to be like Jesus."

Shauna Moony Kawasaki, who has done many graphic presentations for the Friend magazine, contributed graphics for the exhibit. Craig Rohde, a museum staff member, organized the exhibit spaces and developed activities using origami and puppetry, Sister Conder said.

"In a lot of ways, this is their exhibit," she said. "They carried this childlike spirit that is in the exhibit from their hearts and minds."

She added: "We felt an imperative to show we can do something for children that's interactive, that's genuinely engaging, that they respond to, and that we can do it with a religious foundation and message. I think we succeeded on all those accounts."

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