When the museum doors close for the night, some people imagine the exhibits come to life and start talking. At Raynham Hall Education Center and Museum in Oyster Bay, it actually happens during the day.

The Talkative Portraits are one of the few interactive exhibits on display at Long Island museums this fall. At other museums, visitors can drive rovers to Mars, stand inside giant bubbles, build robots out of recyclables, or go on a scavenger hunt in a sculpture garden.

Here’s how seven hands-on Long Island museums are making a state-of-the-art, COVID-safe return.


When you enter the Raynham Hall Education Center and Museum, you will notice the portraits of two merchants, a colonel and a slave who lived during the American Revolution. Hold your phone facing each portrait and insert your headphones. The person in the portrait will appear on your phone, move, and tell you what they were doing there hundreds of years ago.

Then hover your phone over a diorama of Oyster Bay. On your screen, a hologram-like George Washington will appear and tell you about life in 1776. This is all part of a digital tapestry program created by a company known as 360XR. As chief technologist Jack Stephenson describes it: “We stand on the shoulders of giants, but we created software and worked with historians and storytellers to bring the portraits to life. The idea is that if you point your phone at an object, it will recognize it. .”

Since the museum is based on life at Oyster Bay around 1776, there’s also a 70-inch screen filled with games based on spy decoding techniques used during the American Revolution, quizzes, and more. Kids can tap the screen with a stylus to send an imaginary message to George Washington. Also in the museum, families can sniff and identify smells during these times, steer the steering wheel of an old ship, and move a wall with a stunning story.

THE DETAILS: 30 Main Street West; 516-922-6808; Tuesday to Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; raynhamhallmuseum.org. Adults: $12, seniors and students: $8, children under 5, members, military: free.


The practical theme of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City is “the future is now”. In the museum there is a new 12 by 12 simulated surface of Mars, which coordinates with augmented reality. Visitors to the museum can move space rovers across the surface of Mars, dig up space dust, and fly helicopters.

Here’s how it works: At home, start by downloading a specific Mars app to your phone (the link is on the museum’s website). On your phone screen, you will choose a rover which will allow you to launch it on a full mission to Mars. The museum’s creative lead, Rod Leonhard, explains, “Because the rover is on your phone screen, you can place it anywhere on our Mars surface in the museum. You can drive it and pilot the helicopter from Mars.

By living this experience in the museum, you will learn a lot about the planet. Bonus tip: working with augmented reality is not limited to the museum. “Augmented reality is the future of technology. Scientists actually use it when working on high-engineering projects,” says Leonhard.

THE DETAILS: Charles Lindbergh Boulevard; 516-572-4111; Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., cradleofaviation.org. See website for admission to various programs.


At the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City, there are 14 interactive exhibits for children from birth to 10 years old. Here are a few :

The Bubble: Stand in the center of a giant ring, and a tire brings a bubble around you. You are in a six foot bubble.

Feast for the Beast: To examine what, how and why animals eat, there is an animal restaurant. Animal sculptures sit at a dining room table while children serve them pretend food and predict whether the animals will eat it. The answers “yes” and “no” will appear on mustard and ketchup containers.

“At the museum, we’ve noticed how much parents and children want to relive these hands-on experiences,” says Maureen Mangan, the museum’s communications director. She thinks that’s how children learn best. “Take a concept and put it into practice. Experiment. It provides a more lasting memory.” With this in mind, museum staff take COVID regulations seriously. “Staff members are armed with cleaning fluids throughout the day,” says Mangan. “It’s almost like a janitorial situation. If a child touches something, someone from the staff says, ‘Let’s clean this up.’

DETAILS: 11 Davis Avenue; 516-224-5800; Wednesday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (see website for appointment times); licm.org; General admission is $14, members and children under 1: free, group rate: $10, Seniors 65 and over: $13


At the Long Island Science Museum in Manhasset, the “Science and Cooking” workshop is an after-school highlight. Director of Education, Huse Kivrak says, “Children learn that cooking is a science with food.” And a new program called “Tiny Science” debuts this fall. By working with live insects, field microscopes and collections of microscope slides, children discover the smallest of tiny things.

DETAILS: 1526 N. Plandome Road; 516-627-9400; smli.org; Program prices vary.


Pick up a self-guided scavenger hunt clue sheet at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn. There is an indoor treasure hunt based on the museum’s current exhibition and a second outdoor hunt around the sculptures in the garden. Clues inspire families to embark on an imaginative and creative journey by reading clues in the sculpture garden such as, “Her body is going one way, but her head has turned. Is she running away? “Has she heard a strange noise? She’s traveling on something that has two round wheels. When you look at her face, can you tell what she’s feeling?”

DETAILS: A museum reader; 516-484-9338; Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4.45 p.m.; nassaumuseum.org; See website for various admission prices.


In Port Jefferson’s Long Island Explorium, everything physically in the museum is interactive. As Lisa Rodriguez, director of media/marketing programs, describes it, “If it’s out there on the floor, it’s there for the kids to explore.” Since the museum is located on the shore of Port Jefferson, there is an outdoor STEM club and rain garden activities. Inside, kids can build with everything from rods and small pipes to tires and shapes. The hands-on activities spin all the time, so the kids created projects ranging from LED circuits to paper magic tricks.

DETAILS: 101 E. Broadway; 631-331-3277; Wednesday to Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; longislandexplorium.org; $5 per person, members and children under 1: free


Weekends follow one another at the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve in Glen Cove. On fall Saturdays, families can participate in guided nature walks and field observations in the reserve. Using magnifying glasses and binoculars, they search for everything from birds to mushrooms to fossils. Each walk focuses on a different, hands-on theme and is followed by a craft related to the topic. Inside the museum, there is an interactive Native American village. Kids can climb into a canoe, crawl through wigwams and pretend to garden, fish and cook over a smoky fire. If you plan to join a walk on a Saturday, it is recommended that you call ahead.

DETAILS: 50 Barry Drive, Glen Cove; 516 571-8010; Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; garviespointmuseum.com; adults $5, children 5-12 years old $3, free for members.


The museums of the Alle-Kiski valley welcome the public with open days


Miriam Carpenter exhibition at the Michener Art Museum

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