Behind the Scenes at the Museum (Review)
Updated: Nov 21
Publisher: 2020, DK Children
Interest Level: Ages 9 and up
Reading Level: Grades 4 - 7
Retail: $19.99, Hardcover
Summary: In the usual visually stunning DK way, this book offers a series of magazine style spreads with full color photographs, figure captions and short nuggets of text about different aspects of museums. The book is divided into six themes: Treasure Troves, Finding History, Sorting the Past, Saving History, Research and Replicas, and Show and Tell. It has a table of contents and an index.
Although this book says "DK Smithsonian" on the cover, this book goes well beyond the Smithsonian family of museums. It feature different collections worldwide including famous and traditional ones (e.g. The British Museum) as well as smaller and quirky ones (The Paris Sewer Museum).
I love museums, and I read this book cover to cover. Like all DK books, it's heavy on the eye candy, and that's what gets kids turning the pages. Most of the spreads are self-contained, so there is no need to read everything in order. The text is interesting and accurate without getting bogged down with technical details. This is not to say that the coverage of the topic is superficial, but rather that nitty-gritty details are expertly woven through the narrative.
The content related to archaeology is well done, and I was pleased to see that the ethics of removing items from one country to another are addressed. Technical details about conservation, cleaning and storage are also discussed extensively, and readers learn about all the work that goes into planning and creating an exhibit.
Mini profiles of museums around the world will surely inspire many readers to dream about travel. Do you want to see a toxic "fatberg" on display in a specially contained case in England? Do you want to watch a paleontologist working in a lab? How about peering through magnifying lenses to see tiny works of art? There is no substitute for experiencing these wonders in person.
Even if children can't visit the museums in the book, they will learn about ways to explore collections online, and may develop a deeper appreciation for local museums. Career profiles may also inspire some to seek training and work in the field of museums. Finally, the emphasis on preservation should help the next generation understand the importance of keeping a physical record of discovery and exploration.