The Mayborn Museum’s touring exhibit for the spring, “Weebles Coast to Coast,” samples what’s notable or interesting about each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, providing young visitors a hands-on activity for most of those states.
Think of it as a staycation version of a cross-country family road trip, but without the backseat refrain, “Are we there yet?”
The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee, Wis., collaborated with American educational toys and games company Playskool in creating the exhibit, which opens Saturday at the Mayborn. It takes its name from Weebles, a series of wobbling egg-shaped toys made by Hasbro, which owns Playskool, though the presence of the toys in the exhibit is low-key.
“Weebles Coast to Coast’s” demonstrations and interactives skew to children ages 10 years and younger, said Rebecca Tucker Nall, Mayborn’s changing exhibits manager, adding that interactivity makes for a family-friendly exhibit.
This summer’s touring exhibit on dinosaurs will appeal to a slightly older audience, she said.
“Weebles Coast to Coast” groups its state stops by geographic regions: the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Mountains, West and Southwest. Beyond geography, themes such as music, nature, water and vehicles link several of the exhibits.
Music, for instance, connects Tennessee (a playable washtub band), Louisiana (a sound-mixing board and a Dixieland band audio clip), Michigan (a sound box with a Motown track) and Pennsylvania (handbells for the Liberty Bell).
Transportation joins Mississippi (a steamboat), Alabama (the U.S. Space and Rocket
Center), New Mexico (a hot air balloon,complete with a ground-view video screen in its bottom), North Carolina (a wind tunnel standing in for aircraft inventors the Wright Brothers) and Indiana (an Indianapolis 500 race car).
The outdoors get represented in the states of West Virginia (camping), Maryland (Chesapeake Bay wildlife), Florida (animals of the Everglades) and Wyoming (an air-powered cloth geyser).
The great state of Texas, incidentally, gets miniaturized into a photo op with an oversized cowboy hat and an interactive map of the State Fair of Texas, set to a jaunty version of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
“Weebles Coast to Coast” does have a central message in its wide range of activities and displays, besides providing plenty to occupy young minds. “It focuses on the diversity of the nation,” Nall said.
The exhibit runs through May 4. The museum will lower admission to $5 a person for Saturday and Sunday, the exhibit’s opening weekend, and May 3. The Mayborn also offers free admission on the first Sunday of the month.