The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum Opens Amidst Fanfare, Fans, and Frolics
3,000 people celebrate on the Quad on Opening Day, 5,000 over the full weekend
SPRINGFIELD (MA) –The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum opened Saturday, June 3, at 10 am as the Cat in the Hat himself threw open the door and beckoned the crowd to join him in his new home, a museum dedicated to the Springfield native and Cat in the Hat creator, Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. And was there a crowd? Yes, there was—3,000 strong!
A regular Saturday will attract a fraction of that number, said Welcome Center Supervisor Sharon Ferrara. “It was a very good and very busy day.” Ferrara’s staff worked nonstop to help all secure tickets. Although many were able to get into the new museum, others chose to come back again when the crowds would be less and instead enjoy the many fun activities throughout the five museums of the quadrangle.
Tickets for the Dr. Seuss Museum sold out by 2 pm and 1,800 people walked in the doors curious and walked out hours later with grins on their faces. (The Springfield Museums used timed tickets to help manage numbers entering the museum and make sure there was plenty of room for kids to play.)
We heard comments like: “I’m 66 years old, but I feel like I am 5 again!” Everyone had smiles on their faces as they left saying, “That was awesome!” or “That was great!” Many kids gave us the thumbs up when we asked if they had fun. One dad pointed to his son playing in the bakery meant to represent Ted Geisel’s grandparent’s bakery and said, “He doesn’t want to leave!” Lots of folks talked about being Seuss fanatics and how happy they were to see his personal items—such as his drawing desk. That gives the museum even more depth they said. “There is lots of history, I love that,” said Efrain Bermeo of Wilbraham, who carried his one-year-old son.
Ja-Quan Gray, 11, from East Springfield said: “Out of 10, I give this museum a 1,000!”
Samson Oppenheim, 10, from Easthampton, was glad we preserved Ted Geisel’s stuffed toy dog, Theophrastus, “It was cute!” And Samson noted that Dr. Seuss used to always have a pet dog from the photographs in the Pet Room exhibit.
The McElligot’s pool exhibit caught the attention of Jacob Jackson, 8, of Northampton. “You can make your own fish!” he said with a laugh.
Many people responded to the abundance of murals recreated from Dr. Seuss books by John Simpson, Project and Artistic Director, and his team of interns from the UMass Amherst Commonwealth College. Mayor Domenic Sarno said, “It’s like walking right into a Dr. Seuss book!” One mom approached Simpson with a child held by each hand. “What you did in there is magical,” she said. “Thank you.”
As with most things magical, a whole lot of hard work went into making the magic a reality—more than a decade ago Kay Simpson, Springfield Museums President, contacted Susan Brandt, President of Dr. Seuss Enterprises who is in charge of ensuring the integrity of the Dr. Seuss brand. Brandt first thought, she said, was, “’This is a good idea. How do we do this?’ And it just went from there.” Brandt worked together with Kay and John on the concept and various details of the children’s museum.
The opening of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss is also the fifteenth anniversary of the installation of the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Garden, which prompted the call Simpson made to Brandt to start the process of a museum devoted to the beloved children’s book author. “After visiting the sculpture garden,” Simpson said, “People would ask where the Dr. Seuss Museum is. This museum was our most frequent request.”
The sculpture garden was created by sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, who happens also to be Ted Geisel’s stepdaughter. Dimond-Cates joined the crowd at the ribbon cutting for the new museum saying, “I am so impressed by Springfield, I am committed to this city, I am a lifer!” In her recently published book Dr. Seuss, Springfield, and the Kettle of Bronze, Dimond-Cates wrote: “It is becoming very clear to me. . . how important Springfield was to Ted and how much he loved this New England ‘city in the country.’” She told the Museums that every Dr. Seuss book has a reference to Springfield—whether a name or a bit of architecture or something even more specific—which seemed to us a wonderful opportunity to enlist careful readers with sharp eyes to help us determine each of the references.
Many people exiting the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum were impressed by the impact Springfield had on Geisel. “I had no idea how much Springfield was part of Dr. Seuss,” said Anna Zenno of Springfield. Her friend Sphoorti Umarjee, also from Springfield, agreed and added, “It was nice to see our childhood memories recreated so beautifully.”
Charlie Castillo and Joanna Aveles also commented on how seeing all the murals and exhibits brought back wonderful childhood memories.
And now it is time to make new memories. Efrain Bermeo of Wilbraham had his one-year-old son with him on his visit to the museum. “I’m just starting with touch and texture for this guy right now.” Sitting under a tree outside the museum, “My four year old though, he is still in there with his mom!”
The opening weekend celebrations began with a Seussian Celebration at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel, hosted by Paul Picknelly, Friday, June 2. This festive fundraiser attracted a huge crowd of well wishers.
The next morning, bright and early, the Cavalcade of Conveyances, a parade down the famed Mulberry Street, started the grand opening day. Parade dignitaries included Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Mayor Sarno. Led by the giant Cat in the Hat balloon, the parade participants flowed onto the quad to enjoy performances by the SHOW Circus of Easthampton, MA, and students from the Community Music School of Springfield, who presented original music inspired by the work of Dr. Seuss.
The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum was created with the gracious consent of Mrs. Audrey Geisel, the widow of Theodor S. Geisel, and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. Opening weekend festivities are sponsored by American International College, Geddes School Supplies and the TD Charitable Foundation. The MassMutual Foundation is the Season Supporter of the Springfield Museums.
Museums Announce Major Grants to Fund Renovations to Pynchon Building
Renovations Mark First Step Toward Creation of a New Dr. Seuss Museum
SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield Museums have received two major grants to fund exterior renovations to the William Pynchon Memorial Building (formerly known as the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum). Through $120,000 from the Cultural Facilities Fund of the Massachusetts Cultural Council and another $50,000 from The Beveridge Family Foundation, Inc., the Museums will be able to repair and restore the building’s slate roof, replace its gutters, rebuild its shutters and dormers, and paint the building in accordance with historical preservation standards. Renovations to the building have already commenced, with completion targeted for the spring of 2015.
The ultimate goal of the renovation is to reclaim the museum's stunning aesthetic appearance and prepare it for the installation of an exhibition honoring the life and work of Theodor Geisel (a.k.a Dr. Seuss). Working in close collaboration with community leaders and educators, the Museums plan to design and build a literacy-based interactive exhibition titled "The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss" that will make his works come alive for millions of children and their families, while also helping to boost Springfield’s profile as a regional and national destination.
The future home of The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum
“The Pynchon Memorial Building is an integral component of the architectural landscape of the Quadrangle and cultural life of downtown Springfield, and we’re deeply indebted to the Massachusetts Cultural Council and The Beveridge Family for their help in reviving this elegant building,” commented Museums’ Vice-President Kay Simpson.
Named after the founder of Springfield, the William Pynchon Memorial Building was built in 1927 to house the extensive collections of the Connecticut Valley Historical Society. Designed by Springfield architect Max Westhoff, the building exemplifies the Georgian Colonial Revival style that was popular in the early 20th century and reflected the prevailing attitudes about the importance of preserving and interpreting America's Colonial past. The central doorway has a “broken scroll” pediment, pineapple centerpiece, and flanking pilasters, all characteristic hallmarks of Connecticut Valley homes of the 18th century.
The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund is a program of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, administered through a collaborative arrangement between MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
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