The term “museum curator” brings to mind a professional with multiple degrees and thousands of hours of experience in cultural institutions. But a new museum at the National Museum in Warsaw could change that—it was curated by 69 kids between the ages of six and 14. The exhibit, themed “Anything Goes,” shows what happens when children are let loose within a huge museum.
The lucky 69 children involved were selected based on a first-come, first-serve application process after the museum put out an open call. They spent four hours every week on the exhibition, coming up with a theme and doing everything from designing the exhibit to working on the audio guides and promotional materials.
In a release, the museum, known for its large collection of ancient and modern art, writes that many of the works chosen by kids from its extensive vaults had never been displayed before. “The children said that they found and liberated [the pieces] from the museum’s storeroom,” they write. Since the kids had total freedom over what they chose to display, the exhibitions they designed pair objects in intriguing and sometimes strange ways.
That sense of freedom—fostered by the entire museum staff, which was at the kids’ disposal—shows up in the exhibitions themselves. “Anything Goes” has six segments: A forest entirely devoted to animals that features mummies and 20th-century art; “Dance of the Minotaur,” a labyrinth-like segment that includes a kid-produced interpretation of the myth; the “ghost room,” which features some of the museum’s most disturbing and creepy pieces; “Playing the Hero,” which looks at 32 kid-selected heroes and features a huge multimedia crossword puzzle designed by the kid curators; “Treasure Trove,” which puts together a dizzying ensemble of fancy jewels and rare objects; and “Changes,” which pairs fashion with art and even encourages other kids to try on vintage garments for themselves.
“Anything Goes,” which runs through May 8, isn’t the first exhibition curated by kids—children have long been encouraged to get involved in creating their own exhibitions in school and at other museums. But the sense of adventure and fun captured by the Warsaw kids is nothing if not infectious.
They may lack degrees in fine arts or museum studies, but that could be a good thing, as it allows them to look at existing collections in new, offbeat ways and display them with a fresh perspective. Perhaps in the future, more kids can get involved in bringing a bit of fun to local collections—and prove that museum curation should be seen as child’s play after all.