The sign on the door at the Saunders County Museum stopped us in our tracks:
"No Unattended Children Under 13 Permitted."
We'd taken Danny on a field trip to a local museum, but I guess it was a good thing we didn't send him there alone. Wahoo, Nebraska is a very small town. It wouldn't be impossible to be on a first-name basis with most of the neighbourhood children, or at least know their family. There certainly isn't anything in the collection that would be attractive to steal, and aside from a wide, spacious staircase the place doesn't seem terribly dangerous requiring adult supervision. We couldn't imagine the rationale for this rule, so we asked.
The docent informed us that "Children under thirteen don't have a reason to be there without an adult." She mentioned that some underage museum goers had recently shown up, and she had to turn them away. She sounded annoyed that they still tried to gain admission even after seeing the sign. Imagine that, children begging to be admitted to the local museum! They must have been up to no-good. What possible reason could those delinquents have for wanting in a place like that?
Mr. ETB reckons it has more to do with liability, fear of something that, could happen, however unlikely. I've never heard of small town children being kidnapped from the local museum, but the fearful may believe there's danger lurking in the dark corners behind the player piano, and the baseball exhibit. Speaking as someone who spent many an unaccompanied hour wandering the Oriental Institute gawking at mummies in a neighbourhood considerably riskier than Wahoo, Nebraska I think perhaps this policy is misguided. The thought of children interested enough in the history of their county being turned away at the door is really heartbreaking. Would it be so terribly difficult to give them a guided tour if it is so dangerous for them to be there unattended? The place is small enough to cover in ten minutes. There is every reason for children to be in a museum, attended or not. Not every parent can, or is willing to spend time accompanying their children to a museum (or library, or park). The website claims to have programmes for children, accompanied children, anyways.
"Hey you damn kids with your history books, and curiosity...get outta here!"