In the absence of official relations with public or private schools the museum makes no demands on its visitors. It offers its privileges free to children of all ages and leaves each one to choose his own method of enjoyment. Whether he copies a label, reads an appropriate quotation, talks about the group of muskrats with his playfellows, spends an hour in the library or listens to the explanation of the museum "teacher," who gladly answers his questions and tells him stories, matters but little so long as the effect of his visit is to enhance his love for the best things in life.
Through the Museum News, a joint monthly publication of the Brooklyn Institute Museums, principals and teachers in Brooklyn are informed of the half hour natural science, geography, and history talks, given in the children's museum lecture room. Teachers are invited to bring classes to these lectures (which are illustrated with lantern slides, models and experiments) or to study museum exhibits correlated with school work. Some member of the museum staff is always present to render every assistance to visiting classes. Objects and models are taken from the cases and used in demonstration, living specimens from vivaria and aquaria are shown to the nature study classes, questions are answered, in fact everything that can economize the time of the visitors and increase their enjoyment is done. Another privilege extended to schools is the use of stuffed birds, boxes of insects and other "loan material," distributed for class-room study.
The demand for the privileges of a Children's Museum may be seen from the readiness with which schools and individuals accept them. More than 125 schools, many of them remotely situated, send pupils and teachers to our museum; 561 visits from teachers alone in search of definite information were recorded in the school months of 1906, and for the same period the Children's Museum lectures attracted an attendance of 17,253. The average annual attendance for the past five years has exceeded 94,000 visitors.
It would seem from the statistics that a Children's Museum if not a life necessity, is indeed an unquestioned blessing to a great city like our own, whose population is boxed in apartments or brown stone blocks of such vast extent as to place the country beyond the experience of many children. The advantage of a cheerful, sunny, attractive museum rich in natural objects, artistically displayed, where children are sure to find a sympathetic welcome, where they are safe and happily and profitably occupied, is scarcely appreciated until we pause to consider the influence for good or evil of habits acquired in leisure hours, and of the demoralizing influence of crowded city streets and back alleys.
Many of our boys and girls who are now young men and women paid their first visits to the museum in company with their parents