This week, my family took a trip down the rabbit hole… deep into downtown Austin’s UT campus. On our way up the steps at the Harry Ransom Center we knew we were in for a treat when more than one museum worker smiled down at my kids and asked them eagerly, “Are you here to see Alice?”
We did see Alice- in hundreds of versions imagined from around the world and from every era since the 1860s, with a creativity that was a perfect homage to Lewis Carroll (or, as we learned at the exhibit, Charles Dodgson).
My three littles had a lot of fun, skipping from display to display, exclaiming over the giant tumbling cards and laughing at the black and white filmstrip from the 1930s. I was fascinated by the antique magic lantern and its accompanying glass slides.
We had just finished making our own origami White Rabbit at one of the activity areas when a friendly museum docent approached us and began to tantalize us with little snippets of history and Lewis Carroll trivia. We happily followed her around the museum on a private mini-tour.
She introduced us to the original Alice – little Alice Liddell – and related to us how Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came to be. (I’ll let you find out when you go.)
Then, we ducked through the rabbit hole into an area where the docent showed us the original illustrations that Lewis Carroll himself had drawn to go with his book, side by side with what actually ended up in the published version. It was fun for the kids to notice the similarities and differences.
We took a look at the timeline and international wall of book covers, where the docent asked my girls which was their favorite version.
We swept past the wall of Salvador Dali’s book illustrations. (Try to see if you can find the image of Alice skipping rope that is hidden in each picture.)
Finally, she led us to the reading nook where my 7-year-old pored over some of the more unusual and beautiful editions of the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Make sure to check out the Japanese dot version- so interesting!)
In several areas of the Center there are little black chairs and tables thoughtfully set up for children’s activities. Some of these include:
- Writing a shape poem
- Wonderland tangrams
- White Rabbit origami
- Mad Hatter tea party
If you go, be sure to stop at the front desk to get a copy of the White Rabbit Trail that can be marked with a rabbit’s paw stamp when a child completes certain activities.
Also, on the way out children can receive an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland activity book.
Before you visit, it’s a great idea to try to read at least a portion of the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Our family had just read it together recently; we found that we got so much more out of the visit than we would have otherwise. We also learned from the docent that Lewis Carroll wrote a simplified version called The Nursery Alice, which would be a quick way to take in the whole story before you go.
The Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland exhibition will be on display at the Harry Ransom Center until July 6, 2015. See the museum website for more information.
10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
10 a.m.–7 p.m. Thursday
Noon–5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
6 p.m. Thursday
2 p.m. Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday
Field trips and customized group tours can be arranged for various age groups.
Harry Ransom Center
The University of Texas at Austin
300 West 21st Street
Austin, Texas 78712
Katey writes about her family’s adventures at Having Fun at Home.
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