On Saturday, Sept. 26, Capital District residents can learn about science at the Schenectady Museum, tour a World War II-era destroyer escort, play at the Saratoga Children’s Museum and more without spending a cent.
Smithsonian Magazine is sponsoring the fifth annual Museum Day. In the spirit of the 15 Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., that don’t charge admission, participating museums will waive admission fees for those with a special Smithsonian card. More than 1,200 museums nationwide are taking part, including more than 100 in New York State.
The Schenectady Museum has been part of the program since its inception, when many people who presented the special cards for free admission got them from the pages of the magazine, said Erin Breslin, the museum’s director of communications. In recent years, more people have shown up with admission cards printed from the magazine’s Web site (this year’s card can be downloaded at http://microsite.smithsonianmag.com/museumday).
Breslin said the event is a good way to raise exposure of the museum, which is key since it relies heavily on word of mouth to attract visitors.
For us, it’s a win-win, she said.
If the museum, which usually charges admission ranging from $4 to $6.50, didn’t have a special event already planned for the day, it would probably put something together, Breslin said. As it happens, this year’s Museum Day coincides with the Schenectady Museum’s monthly Adventures in Science program, which features demonstrations and experiments led by scientists and researchers from companies throughout the region.
Breslin said other highlights at the museum include `National Grid: Powering the Capital District,` which examines the development of electricity and natural gas transmission in the Capital District, and `Solar and Wind Power Interactives,` which looks at renewable energy.
The museum has an unusual niche in that it’s not a children’s museum, nor is it strictly for adults, Breslin said.
`A lot of museums have an atmosphere of, you come in, you see, you leave,` she said. At the Schenectady Museum, the attitude is, `You come in, you see, you do and you leave.`
The Children’s Museum at Saratoga also encourages activity. `We are completely hands-on, imaginative play,` said executive director Michelle Smith.
Like Breslin, Smith said Museum Day is a good way to spread the word about the museum, which features a replica of a 1950s diner where kids can pretend to cook and serve food, along with an old-fashioned grocery store, post office and bank. There’s also a bubble machine, where kids can be enveloped by a giant bubble.
`There isn’t anything that kids can’t touch, that they can’t play with,` said Smith, who noted the museum has seen an uptick in attendance on prior Museum Days. Admission normally is $6 per person.
A few miles away from the Children’s Museum, Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa will also be taking part in Museum Day. Located in a hotel building dating to 1972, Brookside features pictures and documents that paint a picture of the history of Saratoga County. Admission is typically $2 for adults and $1.50 for seniors and children.
In Albany County, the USS Slater is taking part in Museum Day. Moored in the Port of Albany, the USS Slater is the only World War II-era destroyer escort that remains afloat in the United States. Volunteers work year round on restoring the ship, which charges admission fees ranging from $5 to $7. Veterans often serve as tour guides for the ship, which has such historically accurate touches as real Morse code bring tapped out in the radar room and items donated by the actual World War II occupants on display in officers’ cabins.
People can get another taste of history on Museum Day by visiting the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction. The oldest standing home in the Mohawk Valley, the farm dates to 1705 and will be open for tours on Museum Day.
Pat Barrot, site manager, said Mabee Farm is listed in the state’s AAA book, which often brings in visitors from out of town ` `more than anyone would think.`
Being listed in Smithsonian Magazine is another good way to attract people, and it’s also an honor to be mentioned in the pages of such a respected magazine, she said.
The museum, which usually charges $3 and $4 for admission, actually hasn’t seen much bigger crowds on Museum Day, but Barrot thought that might change as more people learn about the promotion.
`Sometimes, it takes time for something to take off,` she said.“