New mu­seum hon­ors Dr. Seuss’ work, legacy

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - BY MARK PRATT

SPRING­FIELD, MASS. | From the squig­gly, pink handrails out­side the en­trance to the front hall dec­o­rated with scenes from “And to Think That I Saw it on Mul­berry Street” — a real street just blocks away — the new Amaz­ing World of Dr. Seuss mu­seum says, “You’re off to Great Places!”

Walking into the mu­seum that opened to the pub­lic Satur­day in the au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor’s home­town of Spring­field, Mas­sachusetts, is like walking into one of his beloved chil­dren’s books.

The mu­seum ded­i­cated to Theodor Geisel — who, un­der the pen name Dr. Seuss, wrote and il­lus­trated dozens of rhyming chil­dren’s books in­clud­ing “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham” — fea­tures in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibits and art­work never be­fore dis­played pub­licly, and ex­plains how his child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences in the city about 90 miles west of Boston shaped his work.

“He would ab­so­lutely be at ease here,” said Lea­grey Di­mond, one of Geisel’s step­daugh­ters. Geisel didn’t have any bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren. “And to know that he’s go­ing to be here per­ma­nently, safe, pro­tected, that peo­ple who want to know more are go­ing to make this trip here to see him, it’s per­fect.”

Ex­am­ples of Geisel’s early ad­ver­tis­ing work and World War II-era pro­pa­ganda and po­lit­i­cal il­lus­tra­tions that crit­ics con­sider racist are con­spic­u­ously ab­sent, but that’s be­cause the mu­seum is aimed pri­mar­ily at chil­dren, said Kay Simp­son, pres­i­dent of the Spring­field Mu­se­ums com­plex.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion has in the past hosted ex­hibits of Geisel’s wartime work, she said.

Kids are def­i­nitely the fo­cus of the first floor of the mu­seum, cre­ated in con­junc­tion with Dr. Seuss En­ter­prises, the fam­ily com­pany that pro­tects Geisel’s legacy. It fea­tures games and climbable statues of Hor­ton, the stack of tur­tles from “Yer­tle the Tur­tle and Other Sto­ries” and Thing 1 and Thing 2 from “The Cat in the Hat.”

“This mu­seum is about vis­i­tors en­coun­ter­ing the crea­tures that sprang out from Ted Geisel’s imag­i­na­tion — Hor­ton, the Cat in the Hat, the Lo­rax, Sam I Am — that got kids ex­cited about reading, which was re­ally his pre­oc­cu­pa­tion later on in his ca­reer,” Ms. Simp­son said.

Vis­i­tors are taken through Geisel’s boy­hood bed­room, his grand­par­ents’ bak­ery and brew­ery and dif­fer­ent rooms painted in bril­liant blues and ra­di­ant reds, and dec­o­rated in al­most fa­nat­i­cal de­tail with scenes from the books.

The mu­seum’s sec­ond floor has a more in­ti­mate feel­ing with the ac­tual fur­nish­ings and as­sorted knick­knacks from Geisel’s stu­dio from the La Jolla, Cal­i­for­nia, home where he lived un­til his death in 1991 at age 87. Even his col­lec­tion of 117 bow ties is on dis­play.

The mu­seum is ex­pected to draw about 100,000 vis­i­tors an­nu­ally and along with a $1 bil­lion casino sched­uled to open in 2018, is part of the Spring­field’s eco­nomic re­nais­sance, Mayor Domenic Sarno said. Geisel be­longs in his home­town, the mayor said.

“Any other city in the coun­try would be sali­vat­ing to have a mu­seum for a world-renowned au­thor like Dr. Seuss,” Mr. Sarno said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Amaz­ing World of Dr. Seuss Mu­seum, in Spring­field, Mas­sachusetts, fea­tures in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibits and a col­lec­tion of per­sonal be­long­ings.

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