Museum Day Brings What's Inside Out

Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

Ever try to drag a child inside a museum on a gorgeous spring day? No matter how noble, your efforts were probably met with some of the most impassioned whining this side of bedtime.

So those clever folks at the county of Orange came up with a plan that gets kids into museums without having to leave the great outdoors. On Saturday, the county's department of Harbors, Beaches and Parks presents "Museums: Something for Everyone," a 4-hour outdoor festival showcasing more than a dozen area museums and historical groups. The free family event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the George Key Ranch in Placentia.

The festival marks the county's third-annual celebration of international Museum Day, an observance created by the International Council of Museums to remind us, as its paperwork describes it, that "museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among people." In other words, it's a neat chance for kids to get their mitts on some keen stuff and maybe learn a little something in the process.

Previously held at the Old County Courthouse in downtown Santa Ana, this year's celebration offers a wider array of demonstrations, hands-on workshops and exhibits that should appeal to kindergartners to adults, said Marshall Duell, historic resources planner for the county's Environmental Management Agency and coordinator of the event. Diversity and fun were key considerations in planning the festival, said Duell.

"We're making it a point to show that museums are not only things that have inanimate objects in them," he said, "but also things that are alive."

With that in mind, representatives of the Santa Ana Zoo and the Fullerton Arboretum will both be on hand. Zoo personnel will show off a number of critters and related artifacts (animals will be on view from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. only), and the arboretum will present a demonstration of organic composting.

The George Key Ranch is site of one of the earliest citrus groves in North County. Purchased by the county in 1980, the ranch includes several buildings housing displays of antique farm equipment, tools and household goods dating from the late 1800s to the 1940s, as well as nearly two acres of producing groves. Self-guided tours of the facility will be available.

"Every major museum" in the county was invited to participate in the event, said Duell, but the majority of those responding are from central and North County. In addition to the zoo and arboretum, participants include the Anaheim Museum, Bowers Museum, Bradford House, Clark Park Interpretive Center, Discovery Museum of Orange County, Fullerton Museum Center, Old Courthouse Museum, Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, Heritage House and the Museum of Natural History and Science.

Several exhibits will focus on life in Orange County at the turn of the century. The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum will showcase harbor life in the late 1800s with a display of boating and sportfishing photographs; the Discovery Museum of Orange County will present a corn-husk doll-making workshop and a display of Victorian domestic items, and the Old Courthouse Museum will provide replicas of antique dip pens and inkwells for children to use as they fill out old-fashioned court documents. Other activities include a "fish-print" workshop (using real fish) from the Bowers Museum and a paleontological exhibit from the Clark Park Interpretive Center.

The festival's opening ceremonies, scheduled for 10:30 a.m., will feature a presentation of the colors by uniformed members of the 19th Indiana Infantry, a living-history group that re-enacts Civil War battles.

According to Aimee Grodsky, education coordinator for the Fullerton Museum Center, the event is a welcome chance to reach people who might not be aware of the museum's services.

"A lot of people don't even know our museum is here," Grodsky said. "But whenever they find out, it's 'Wow, I didn't know Fullerton had this great little museum.' " The museum, which normally presents hands-on workshops to enhance current exhibits, will hold a class in Chinese brush painting at Saturday's event, Grodsky said.

What: Orange County Museum Day 1991.

When: Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: George Key Ranch, 625 W. Bastanchury Road, Placentia.

Whereabouts: Exit the Orange (57) Freeway at Yorba Linda Boulevard and head east. Turn left on Placentia Avenue and left on Bastanchury Road.

Wherewithal: Admission is free.

Where to Call: (714) 834-3703 or (714) 528-4260.

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