In “To a Butterfly,” William Wordsworth’s ode to childhood, the great poet aptly describes the carefree, golden age of “sweet childish days, which were as long as twenty days are now.”
In one of their most endearing exhibits to date, “,” the invites visitors to travel back through the looking glass of time, and re-experience the enchanted garden that is childhood.
According to curator Teresa Reid, “Growing Up Northport” juxtaposes the unique experience of growing up in the greater Northport area against the broader perspective of the remarkable changes that took place in the concept of childhood and child-rearing practices from 1870s to the 1970s.
Reid, who works with the museum’s collections, said that her imagination was ignited by a donation of children’s clothing from the 1950s and 1960s which whispered provocatively of the past. With the assistance of the Exhibits Committee (Chairwoman Candace Hamilton, Rhoda Wright, Darcy Little, and Gretchen Haynes), she showcased the memories and personal belongings of Northport residents, past and present, as well as changes in thinking about childhood.
Reid advertised on Facebook and spoke to family, friends and neighbors to compile touching local recollections about the old-time pleasures of shopping for toys at the Five and Dime, fishing on the pier, and roller-skating at Lace’s.
Surprisingly “the notion of childhood, a time of innocence where boys’ and girls’ days were filled with toys, playtime, and school,” did not exist prior to the 18th century, Reid said.
In the historical period where childhood mortality rates were high, those who survived were dressed and treated as miniature adults. Philosophers John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau ushered in a new age of thinking about childhood.
Fast forward to the very different worlds of 20th and 21st centuries which gave rise to “disposable diapers, canned baby food, Dr. Spock’s advice, and a host of different forms of children’s entertainment such as television, movies, video games, and computers,” Reid said.
In addition to learning about the development of such conveniences as the bottle, baby food, and diapers, visitors will learn the identity of the Gerber Baby and Mother Goose as well as the inventor of Monopoly.
In keeping with the exhibit, the Historical Society will host “A Brief History of Comic Books: From the Classics to the Contemporary” on Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. Glenn Fischette, co-owner of Smithtown’s Fourth World Comics, will talk about the history of comic books and collecting. Scott Snyder, a writer for the Batman and Swamp Thing comic series who worked with master of the macabre, Stephen King, on the American Vampire comic book series, will speak. Keith Dallas, a writer of two ongoing series, Argonauts and Omega Chase, will share his expertise. A $5 donation is suggested for non-members.
The museum is located at 215 Main St., Northport. The exhibit, which runs through October, is sponsored by , known for its unique assortment of old-time candies and toys.