Halloween and Dia de los Muertos at the Museum

Happy fall holidays!

Several area museums are hosting Halloween-themed events, including parties and trick-or-treating, and I won’t list them all here. Instead, I want to highlight a few special programs that both celebrate Halloween and reinforce the museum’s mission.

The National Zoo not only takes care of animals’ basic survival needs, but also keeps both animals and visitors interested through enrichment: the use of enhancements to keep animals mentally and physically stimulated, like an intriguing new scent, a big bouncy ball, or treats hidden throughout the habitat. These Halloween-themed enrichment photos (from last year) are not only adorable, but are also an entry point for audiences to learn more about the enrichment the animals experience all year and understand its purpose.

Yesterday, the National Building Museum held a haunted house building event for families, so that children could try on the role of architect and builder while making a Halloween decoration. Meanwhile, the ghost tours offer a spooky history lesson to visitors.

And on Saturday, at the Freer Gallery, kids learned about the many figures depicted in art throughout the museum and made museum-inspired masks in the Masked Identities program. (For a list of more Smithsonian-inspired costume ideas, click here.)

Dia de los Muertos
Tomorrow and Wednesday, November 1 and 2, mark the celebrations of el Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday primarily celebrated in Mexico. Visitors can learn more about the holiday at the National Museum of the American Indian, which includes a display about el Dia de los Muertos in the Our Universes gallery, featuring objects such as this skull.

The Torpedo Factory holds annual Day of the Dead events, including an exhibition of altars for the occasion. Below is one of the pieces from 2009:

Dia de los Muertos altar, Torpedo Factory

Skulls are perhaps the first symbol that comes to mind when thinking of el Dia de los Muertos, and the National Museum of Health and Medicine took the opportunity to teach young visitors about both the holiday and the science of skulls.

About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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