Philadelphia Inquirer has a story about what happened when an old man started to hang out with a boy he met at the museum. Can you imagine this unfolding the same way today?
When Dave Schwartz was a boy, his father was constantly in the hospital, and his mother would drop him at the Penn Museum while she visited her husband.
Beginning in 1961, when he was 8, Schwartz spent years among the mummies, the giant sphinx, and other antiquities.
“I’m kind of a museum orphan,” he says now, at age 61. “I literally grew up in that museum.”
One day, he was tracing hieroglyphs on a 10-foot-tall Mayan limestone monument – his sketches spread all over the floor of the Mesoamerican Gallery – when an older man in a suit stopped and asked the boy what he was doing.
The man was J. Alden Mason, one of the most famous archaeologists in America, then in his 70s, and curator emeritus of the Mesoamerican Gallery. Mason invited the boy back to his office, and shared his sandwich.
They became the best of friends. Many days, they ate lunch together, sometimes with a constellation of famous archaeologists including Linton Satterthwaite and Froelich Rainey. The names meant nothing to Schwartz, who was just a boy in heaven.
Read the rest of the story here. And for another story of a boy left on his own at a museum when young (today it would be “neglect”), check out this post. And remember that when we see all stranger-kid interactions as fraught with skeeviness, we are breaking a tradition older than those mummies. – L