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At Adirondack Museum, focus is hands-on

BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE - Christine Campeau gripped one side of a two-'man' cross-cut saw and pulled it toward her.

"Now you have to be careful to make sure your footwork is right," she said. "The cross-cut is all in the footwork."

Campeau is the Education Outreach Coordinator at the Adirondack Museum.

Throughout the season, Campeau and her staff teach area school children how to use century-old logging technology, giving them a hands-on experience of Adirondack lifestyle and culture.

After her example, dozens of fourth-grade students from L.P. Elementary School in Tupper Lake followed her lead and under her watchful eye, proceeded to cut a chunk off a large pine log.

Museum officials are focusing on interactive elements at each exhibit to facilitate learning, a museum official said.

"We are trying to tell the story of the people of the Adirondacks," Adirondack Museum Marketing Assistant Kate Moore said this week. "The idea is to add as many objects that can be felt and manipulated as possible."

This season the museum is offering two new exhibits, one offers visitors the opportunity to see some of the oldest depictions of the park in existence and the other is a collection of historical and contemporary quilts - conveying the utilitarian and artistic history of the Adirondack women, Moore said.

"We decided to have quilt labels made," she said. "This allows visitors to touch something in the exhibit and hopefully lead to a more significant impact."

The quilt labels were crafted by quilters from Indian Lake and Long Lake, she said.

The interactive element is pervasive throughout the dozens of exhibits on display as visitors can manipulate guide boat spars, feed indigenous trout and use a peavey to advance a log up an inclined plane.

"We have found that if people can pick something up and touch it as they hear a description they tend to retain that knowledge," said long-time museum lead educational assistant Bill Lennon. "Often someone comes back two years later and says I did that."

And in a setting where so many objects are highly sensitive and may not be touched, the interactivity is a way to bring history to life, Moore said.

"We want our exhibits to be accessible to everyone," Moore said. "We try to make everything palpable, especially things like paintings - that's why we created children's labels so they can touch and feel something."

And it seems the method is making an impression on visitors.

"This is exactly what a museum should be," patron Rhonda Demars said. "Letting people touch and use things really brings everything to life."

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