Until Dec. 31, the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, located in Lancaster in the historic Reese-Peters House, will house “An Ohio Childhood: 200 Years of Growing Up.” (Submitted)

Experience 200 Years Of Ohio Childhood At DACO

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If there is one core human experience, it very well may be childhood. No matter what socio-economic background you come from, what county you grew up in or what kind of family dynamic you hail from, you were once a child.

This is the theme of the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio’s (DACO) latest exhibition, entitled “An Ohio Childhood: 200 Years of Growing Up,” which opened on Saturday and will be on display, completely free of charge, until Dec. 31. The exhibition is presented by PNC Arts Alive.

“We really have an incredibly wide variety of objects in this exhibition,” said Andrew Richmond, who curated the exhibition alongside Hollie Davis. “I think that reflects the diversity of childhood experiences that people have had in the state.”

Through an extensive collection of objects, reigning from paintings of working children in the last century to toys played with by kids in the early 1900s, the exhibition tells the story of what it’s been like to come of age in the Buckeye state for the past two centuries.

“This is an exhibition that can be a perfect first museum experience for a child,” said Judith Oppenheimer, the external relations liaison for DACO. “We were all kids once, and this exhibition spans that common experience from 1816 to the present day.”

The exhibition has been so carefully tailored to fit a three generation audience (children, parents and grandparents) that there is even a specially designed child gallery guide.

“For all of us, being able to imagine ourselves in another place and another time is kind of the first step in becoming compassionate people,” said Oppenheimer. “If you can imagine how it was in the past, or the hardship that someone would have had at a different time, and reflect upon where we are today, that can be the first step in having a little bit more empathy for the other person’s experience. And, of course, the goal of all parents is to raise compassionate children. This exhibition provides a canvas for that.”

The story of the past two centuries of childhood in Ohio will not just be illustrated with a standard museum display. DACO has also developed an augmented reality application that will allow attendees to take part in an adventure game throughout their time in the exhibition. The app, which will be accessible on smartphones, is called DACO GO and was developed using the TaleBlazer platform, which was created specifically to allow teachers to conjure up educational apps for their students.

“It’s a basic good versus evil challenge, in which the player needs to retrieve a lost princess,” said Carol Abbott, a member of DACO’s exhibition team and also a faculty member at Ohio University’s Lancaster branch. “In the first room of the exhibition the player meets a wizard, and they need to help the wizard find the objects that he has lost, which can be found throughout the exhibition.”

As one makes their way through the museum, they pick up clues from the paintings and displays throughout, receiving tidbits of information relevant to their adventure from completing various challenges. Other game elements include iPad puzzles in the galleries, which allow secret codes necessary to complete the game with the assembly of each puzzle. After completing the game, players will be able to show their game inventories at the gift shop to be entered for a chance to win a special prize.

However, the exhibition and its theme is not limited strictly to the actual objects on display in the museum and the app that can be used to interact with them.

“We a couple of really exciting events this season that tie in with this exhibition,” said Trisha Clifford-Sprouse, the Director of Education for the museum and current Acting Co-Director.

Jane Labowitch (Princess Etch-a-Sketch) will teach a special class in her quirky, preferred medium at DACO in Lancaster this weekend. (
Jane Labowitch (Princess Etch-a-Sketch) will teach a special class in her quirky, preferred medium at DACO in Lancaster this weekend. (

On Sept. 17 DACO will host special guest artist Jane Labowitch (a.k.a. Princess Etch-a-Sketch) who will work with participants to create their own special Etch-a-Sketch art. Labowitch is based out of Chicago and uses the Etch-a-Sketch (which was manufactured in Ohio until relatively recently) to craft masterful depictions of elaborate scenes, such as renderings of the Mona Lisa, Will Farrell as he appears in the holiday classic Elf and many more.

Those who take part in the workshop will have their work on display in the Ohio Education Gallery throughout the rest of the month and will receive their very own Etch-a-Sketch to take home as a part of the fee associated with the class. The class costs $25 per person (students can take advantage of a $12.50 class fee) and starts at 1 p.m.

Sept. 18 the DACO will put on a Teddy Bear Picnic Celebration, which will kick off at 1 p.m. and cost $12 for non-members, $11 for members of the museum. The museum invites kids to snag their favorite plush pal (as well as an adult) and enjoy a sack lunch on the grounds of the picturesque Reese-Peters House. Art activities will be available and live music will keep attendees entertained throughout the event.

For more information, visit DACO’s website.