SANTA ANA : Exhibit Teaches Kids About Victorian Era

To most adults, the latest exhibit at the Discovery Museum of Orange County would appear to be nothing more than a plain white bungalow filled with old furniture.

But for preschoolers, the exhibit is a way to show them just how much things have changed in the past 100 years. The cottage replicates a quaint Victorian abode, complete with an old-fashioned tea table, archaic kitchen utensils and a garden. Nowhere will the youngsters find anything resembling a television.

Three- to 6-year-olds "have no idea that things were very different in the past," program director Nancy Robins said. "This is a unique approach for children to absorb history and learn that everything isn't new and modern."

Museum workers are busy this month transforming the interior of the bungalow on the Discovery Museum grounds into a parlor, bedroom and kitchen of a century-old cottage. When the display opens Oct. 1, the building will include Victorian-style furniture, old-fashioned paintings on the walls and a small vegetable garden in back.

Preschoolers will experience the exhibit through hands-on tours that encourage them to play the parlor's organ, churn butter and dress in the big hats and ornate outfits of the time. Most exhibit items are not antiques, but organizers promise that the atmosphere will be out of the past.

"The exhibit tries to give them the feeling of an old house. It's giving them an idea of history more than trying to be totally authentic," said Mary Lynne Hummes, director of special projects for the museum.

The goal is less to teach youngsters about a specific historical event than to emphasize the differences between their own lives and what it was like growing up 100 years ago, Hummes said.

The exhibit is similar to a more sophisticated program for elementary school children that reinforces the Orange County history lessons often taught in the third and fourth grades.

Tours are available for both private groups and preschools. The fee is $3 per child. For further information, call (714) 540-0404.

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