Volume 20, Number 36 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 19 - 25, 2011

New exhibit at Police Museum for little people only

BY Helaina N. Hovitz

Lower Manhattan should be on the lookout because there is a new crop of police recruits and they’re fighting crime before naptime. 

After receiving a $150,000 grant from the National Institute of Museum and Library Services, the New York City Police Museum began working collaboratively with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan last year. The purpose of the grant was to create an interactive exhibit geared towards children under ten, which opened to the public last Thursday. The museum has seen a tremendous increase in student and family attendance over the past two years, and saw a need to create an exhibit specially designed to teach young children what it takes to become one of New York’s Finest.

The Junior Officer’s Discovery Zone on the ground floor of the museum is divided into four sections, including the Police Academy, Emergency Services Unit, Park and Precinct and a Multi-Purpose Area. The Police Academy exhibit features a computer station that takes fingerprints and classifies DNA based on a “loop, whirl, or arch pattern.” A memory test identical to the one given on the actual N.Y.P.D. police exam gives kids twenty seconds to study a sweeping New York City street scene and answer specific questions about details in the photo, and the physical fitness test is the very same test that all potential N.Y.P.D. recruits must take.

Younger children can play with a magnet board that places different types of officers in various locations citywide, and explains the various uniforms police wear, which vary depending on the job.

“It’s important for kids to know who they can trust if they’re lost or scared, and be able to recognize them on the street” said Elana Yellen, the museum’s manager of education.

Kindergartners from P.S. 19 gave the exhibit its first test run; among them was Naliyah Natalia, 5, who thought the exhibit was “the most special museum” she’d ever been to.

“It’s so cool, and the slide is perfect,” said Natalia. “I like climbing around in the precinct.”

Natalia is referring to the mock First Precinct residing in the corner of the room, in which kids can crawl through winding hallways full of fun artifacts and pictures and exit down a slide.

Other features include an old style police car that makes rather convincing siren and acceleration sounds, and an Emergency Services Unit truck full of real E.S.U. equipment and coded radio call buttons, which 5-year-old Olivia Williams had a blast pushing.

“I think I want to be a police officer when I grow up,” explained Williams, as she made “radio calls” from the E.S.U. truck. “They have handcuffs and guns.”

But N.Y.P.D. Sergeant Veronica Willis, assigned to the museum as a liaison officer, thinks it is important to show kids that police officers do more than “just arrest bad guys.”

“Kids can learn what it’s like to be an officer, and what skills are required,” said Willis.
“It’s important that they learn the roles of their role models.”

Among the guest speakers at the opening ceremony were Downtown Alliance President Elizabeth Berger, First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro and Community Board 1 Chair Julie Menin.

“Now that the museum features an interactive exhibit, kids will really be able to understand how being a police officer works,” Menin said, adding that since the N.Y.P.D. were first responders on September 11, the exhibit has special resonance in the Downtown community.

Yellen also thinks the exhibit is an important addition to Lower Manhattan because “there are few, if any, places in the neighborhood where children can use their imaginations and mother and child groups can come to instead of going to each other’s homes.”

Yellen believes, however, that the exhibit is an important stop for children citywide to make.

“Unlike in other places, city kids see police officers in their day-to-day lives, and they need to know that trusted adults are there to keep them safe,” said Yellen.

As part of their effort to bring families into the exhibit, the museum invites grandparents to bring children under the age of five to the museum on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for snacks, special activities and an “informal support network.” The museum, which resides in the former location of the First Precinct at 100 Old Slip, saw 15,000 student visitors last year and expects that number to grow with the new exhibit.

For more information, call 212-480-3100 or visit www.nycpm.org. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

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