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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Learning Everyday: An Intro to Fire Museums

Visiting a fire museum is not high on the list of sites to see for my art-loving wife or my history-buff self. So maybe it was good our introduction to the concept came while attending a birthday party at the Fire Museum of Memphis this weekend.

The museum has its share of historic trucks and equipment, which was pretty cool to check out. But the highlight of this museum – and I’m sure many worldwide like it – is the educational aspect. That’s where this museum has found its mission.

From the room simulator that shows an innocent fire starting and spreading quickly through a house while the room’s heat begins to get very unbearable to the maze teaching children how to escape a burning house, the museum does a great job. And when not learning about fire safety or the history of firefighting in Memphis, the museum offers plenty of play opportunities.

There are nearly 300 museums in North America devoted to firefighting, according to the Fire Museum Network. The network’s Web site,, lists museums in all 50 states, throughout Canada and in a number of other countries.

Some are basic rooms in working firehouses. Others are more elaborate, such as those that can be found in major cities that are housed in former firehouses.

I’ve been to a grand total of one. So I can’t speak as an expert on the subject. But I can say I was pleasantly surprised in the detail of the interactive exhibits and the number of historic trucks and other items.

The most important visitor on this trip, my 3-year-old son, gave the museum his approval. Two fire trucks and one ambulance with flashing lights and working steering wheels and switches was a perfect experience for a boy infatuated with all things cars and trucks.

If I’m on a weekend trip to New York am I going to visit the New York City Fire Museum? Probably not, but an extended stay, particularly if a certain toddler is in tow, and I can’t think of anything better.

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