Diverse Families

The Museum has been a national leader in developing exhibits and programs that create understanding of our differences and similarities. Families who visit the Museum reflect a broad spectrum of religions, cultures, ethnicities, genders, geographies, and special needs. Through exhibits, programs, and gallery installations, the Museum has sought to illuminate the diversity of these many family experiences.

The Museum has been a national leader in creating exhibits and programs to foster understanding of children and families coping with special or medical needs. In the 1970s, the Museum created what became a national model for promoting understanding of special needs with the exhibit What If You Couldn’t? In 2004, the Museum launched access/ABILITY, a 1,200 square foot travelling exhibit geared to children 4-12 years old and their families. The exhibit was designed to foster understanding and appreciation of differences, and to promote positive communication and behavior emphasizing that we may be alike in some ways and different in others, but we all have the same human needs.

In 2022, Boston Children’s Museum opened the gallery exhibit “Protect Trans Dreams: A Portrait Project.” The installation featured a series of large-scale acrylic portraits that celebrated transgender children and their dreams by artist Noah Grigni (they/them).

The paintings portrayed each child in dreams they envisioned. Some were silly and playful, others earnest and serious. To create these portraits, Grigni connected with seven transgender kids across New England, ranging in ages from 6 to 12, and interviewed them about their dreams for the future. The paintings illustrated the ideas they described—ranging from making music and writing stories, to intricate scenes of fallen angels crying tears of joy, and celestial wolves circling in the sky. The exhibition also featured a cozy book nook with drawing prompts focused on identity and dreams, which invited Museum visitors to read, write, and create their own masterpieces highlighting their dreams.

Boston Children’s Museum’s 2015 gallery exhibit, “Mimi’s Family,” presented a series of images by photographer Matthew Clowney of Erica (aka Mimi) Tobias, a transgender grandparent, and her family in everyday situations. The photographs portrayed Mimi, her children, and grandchildren playing, eating, relaxing, and enjoying one another’s company. In a respectful and caring way, the photographs showed the love and commitment of family members. Accompanying the exhibit were open-ended questions that encouraged visitors to discuss their families and reflect on differences and similarities. Questions included “What makes your family special?” and “What does it feel like to spend time with someone you love?”

In 2011, Boston Children’s Museum visitors and staff had the opportunity to answer that question with the traveling exhibit Torn from Home: My Life as a Refugee. Developed by the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas, the exhibit provided visitors with an introduction to the plight of refugees and the importance of human rights. Various interactive components guided visitors through daily refugee experiences. Before opening, the Museum was unsure of what to expect. How would visitors react to such a challenging topic? Overall, families were very mindful of the content and messages of the exhibit. It was exciting to watch conversations unfold and see families interacting in the space. Grownups and children alike participated in the activities, exploring and experiencing what it means to leave home and resettle somewhere new and different.

The Museum’s new You, Me, We exhibit is the latest example of creating a space for considering issues of bias, stereotyping, discrimination, and for building empathy for others.