Touch and See Discovery Room

Touch & See Room TurtleImagine a place where you can find the answers to all your questions about the natural world. Investigate wondrous objects—from a 10,000-year-old wooly mammoth tusk to a life-sized kodiak bear, or even a living, moving snake. The Touch and See Room came into being in 1968. Public Education Coordinator Richard Barthelemy realized that younger visitors (and, really, probably all visitors) wanted to get their hands on all the beautiful and exciting stuff that was behind glass in the museum's spectacular dioramas.

Bart, as he was known, started by sitting down with groups and passing around bones and furs and feathers and such and talking with them about what was there. After the new wing was built on the museum, he got the use of about half of its exhibit space and teamed with Dr. Roger Johnson from the University of Minnesota's Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education to figure out how to make the room work at its best.

Lots of things have changed in the room since 1968, of course. Nearly everything is new since then except the basic idea of putting out wonderful things where people can explore them and get a little help when they want it. But people haven't changed much since then either. They're still lively and curious and love to explore. And they love it when what they're exploring is the real thing as it is here.

Not long after Touch and See opened, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. launched its famous discovery room. They have told us that, at that time, our Touch and See Room was the only similar place they could find as a model other than children's museums.