If your family has a special interest in Bible stories, children’s literature, and/or arts and crafts projects, be sure to visit Bethesda’s Ratner Museum, established by two cousins: businessman Dennis (founder of The Hair Cuttery) and sculptor Phillip. After spending 13 years in Safad, Israel creating the Israel Bible Museum, they decided to produce a similar museum in this area. They believe that both Jewish and non-Jewish people can benefit from the lessons to be learned in the Hebrew Bible. The museum truly fosters a love of the Bible through the graphic arts. Sculptures of Old Testament are the priamry focus, but there are also engaging displays featuring children’s classical literature. And don’t forget to check out the latest permanent display of 10 of the 42 original Ellis Island Models.
Before You Go
Make sure your children are familiar with Biblical stories like Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, David and Goliath, and Moses and the Ten Commandments. Read the stories to them and watch videos like “The Prince of Egypt,” “Joseph: King of Dreams,” and the Donny Osmond version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Talk to them about some of their other favorite stories. Have them draw their own pictures or make their own sculptures showing the characters they like best.
On the way there:
Ask them what makes someone a hero? Do heroes make mistakes? Why do some stories remain important over so many years? If you were going to make museum when you grow up, what would be in it? What are your favorite stories and why? Which stories do you think would be the most fun to illustrate?
Once You Get There:
Begin with the main building. Pick up a directory of the artwork at the front desk to carry with you as you circle the room. See if the kids can guess which stories each sculpture illustrates. Some (like the burning bush) are obvious; others require a little more attention. Ask the kids whether the sculptures are supposed to look exactly like the characters in the story or whether they are supposed to be more about the sculptor’s feelings about what is going on in the story. What does he exaggerate? What does he leave out? Why did he pick the parts of the story he did to illustrate instead of something else?
Then go outside and follow the driveway to the smaller building, the Gallery for Children’s Literature in Art. It is filled with imaginative and whimsical sculptures illustrating classics: Cinderella, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumplestiltskin, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Beauty and the Beast. Ask kids to tell you the stories, and let them tell you how these depictions contrast with others they have seen and with their own ideas about the characters. This facility has materials for kids to create their own works of art, so be sure to allow time for them to complete their masterpieces. You might also want to stock up on art supplies at home because this museum will really inspire them to do more.
AT A GLANCE
10001 Old Georgetown Rd.
Bethesda, MD 20814
Time needed One to two hours
Rest rooms: On site
Hours: Sundays 10-4:30, Monday through Thursday12-4 , closed Friday and Saturday.
Phone number: 301-897-1518
Tips on how to get there: From 495, exit onto Old Georgetown Road. Go North toward Rockville for approximately 1/4 of a mile. Turn Right on Lone Oak Drive (East) and take an immediate left into the first driveway. Proceed to the smaller building in back. From 270, exit Old Georgetown Road (South). Go South towards Bethesda for approximately 1 mile. Turn left on Lone Oak Drive (East) and immediately turn left into the first driveway. Proceed to the smaller building in back.
Your kids will really like:
The Childrens’ Room where bibical projects created by students of the museum on display.