Brooklyn Children's Museum is a collecting museum. The Museum collects cultural objects and natural history specimens. A cultural object is something made by a person. It tells us about the person and about the society and time in which the person lives or lived. A natural history specimen can be an animal, a plant, an insect, a rock or a shell. We also collect fossils of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. The Museum has nearly 30,000 objects and specimens.
The people who take care of the collection are called curators. They research the objects and write what they learn in the collections database. Curators add new objects to the collection, and decide which objects to exhibit. BCM invites visitors to curate their own exhibits in the Collections Central: Artifacts & Specimens gallery.
People and institutions have been donating objects to the Museum for more than 100 years. Mostly, they donate because they would like to share the objects. Sometimes, people just can't keep everything they have, and they know the Museum will take good care of their things. To decide whether an object will be part of the collection, the curator checks to see if the Museum already has that kind of object. Next, the curator checks that the donated object is in good condition, and that we can fit it in our storage rooms. When the Museum accepts an object for the collection, we keep it forever. Once in a while, we buy collection objects. The largest donation we ever received was from Dr. Herbert Zim. He gave us 1,500 cultural objects that he collected during his travels around the world.
The Museum has so many objects that they can't all be exhibited at the same time. We keep most of the objects in two large, special storage rooms filled with cabinets that have closets, drawers, or shelves inside.
You can see objects from the collection in the Museum's exhibits and in our programs. Collections Central: Artifacts & Specimens is an area of the Museum where pieces from the collection are always changing. You can draw them, practice close looking, arrange your own exhibit, and look up objects on the Collections database. Click here to view our online collection. We also lend objects to school classrooms and other museums; click here to find out more about our Portable Museum Program for educators. Occasionally, the Museum offers special tours of its collections storeroom.