Culture without the crash as family visits glass museum

Contributing WriterJune 10, 2013 

It was with some trepidation that my husband and I loaded the boys into the car and headed over to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma to soak up some culture.

I should state here for the record that the trepidation I am referring to was pretty much all mine. I don’t think my husband gave much thought to all that could break and shatter. A bull in a china shop has nothing on two boys, ages 6 and 4, overflowing with the energy of childhood. But I had finally scored free passes to the museum from our local library, completing the trifecta of free museum passes to be had.

It is true that the Tacoma Art Museum and the Washington State History Museum (the two other museums the library loans out free passes for) as well as the Harbor History Museum survived a visit from our boys. No priceless works of art were violently sneezed upon, Meeker’s oxen did not suffer even a tiny handful of fur loss, and the sail on the small sailboat situated next to the massive and very impressive Shenandoah can still be raised and lowered.

But the glass museum had me rather worried. Not only are most of the pieces on display actually made of glass but many of them are not even placed behind glass for their own protection.

I need not have worried. The boys took to heart our talk about using inside voices, not running or galloping sideways no matter how much fun it is, and for the love of Pete please don’t touch anything. They were well-behaved, spending roughly five to 20 seconds of time admiring each piece of art.

It was a whirlwind tour with some rather interesting commentary. They found a look-alike of their school bus driver, a monster, and lots of scary “bad guys” in Ray Turner’s “Population,” an exhibition of roughly 200 portraits painted on glass. They declared that the Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana “Scapes” exhibit contained glass statues of giant thumbs, toilet bowls and oddly shaped baseballs. I suppose art appreciation takes all forms.

We were all fascinated with the goings on in the hot shop, the place where all the magic takes place. The boys picked the topmost seats in the bleacher-like observation area that looks down into the workspace below. We watched as large blobs of liquid glass were pulled from the ovens, rolled, blown into and otherwise manipulated into impossibly beautiful shapes.

My husband and I were so engrossed in the glass-blowing techniques that we did not notice the busy feet of our 4-year-old as he absentmindedly kicked the seat in front of him. The lady in said seat kindly asked him to stop and Carter, who does not take criticism well, hid his face and became extremely shy. I traded places with him, but the mood had been broken and I could see it was time for us to move on.

The last stop was the gift shop. Oh yes we did. It was in here where I could feel my blood pressure rise. The space was small and cramped with shelves and tables covered with wondrous glass pieces to be purchased. I must have called out “be careful” several dozen times as I tried to stay close to stop little hands from touching.

As we rounded the last section of the shop and had the exit door clearly in our sights, I glanced over at the store clerk. Her eyes locked with mine and I gave her a little smile. I imagine we both breathed a sigh of relief as the boys tumbled out the door and on to the next adventure.

Overall the trip to the Museum of Glass was a success. Art was appreciated, things were learned and fun was had by all. Oh, and not a thing was broken.

Nancy Magnusson is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. She lives with her husband and their two young sons just outside of Gig Harbor. They enjoy focusing on the simple things in life and taking the road less traveled. Email her at

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