Monday, October 25, 2010

First look at 826DC and the Museum of Unnatural History

826DC, the local branch of the Dave Eggers-founded nonprofit that tutors kids on reading, writing, and more opened this weekend. As well as space to meet with kids, they also have a quirky storefront called the Museum of Unnatural History, with lots of funny items for sale. I made a video, below, though I'm not exactly an expert videographer.

Some more on the spot: 826DC is basically a continuation of Capitol Letters, a nonprofit that worked with local schoolkids on reading and writing, creating a professional-looking book of Cardozo High School kids' work. There are two full-time staff members now, plus 200 volunteers. Their reps said they're always looking for more volunteers -- especially for tutoring and teaching a number of subjects, but also to help with the place itself, designing items for the store, writing blurbs about the items, doing admin, things like that. 

For parents interested in having their kids involved, they need to sign up first, but then they can come by or figure out a schedule. That's on the website.

The store itself is sort of a cross between a museum of funky items and a store -- most everything is sale, though it's designed to look like a museum. All the were designed by volunteers and staffers, and the proceeds help fund the group's programs. There's jars of interesting things, shirts, taxidermy animals on loan from a museum in New York, and more. One of the interesting things you can buy, for example, is a station where you design your own animal. There are different foam bodies, different kinds of fur, antlers, ears, eyes and so on. There's also lots of other items: the idea was to not include anything technological like computers, since kids look at screens all day: it's all fun, hands-on and touchable stuff.

Reps said Dave Eggers was at their kickoff meeting a few weeks ago, and he actually wrote some of the signs about the items for sale, like one on a sandbox right inside the door. Cool to see that kind of involvement.

In any case, it's a really neat place, and I recommend you stop by, check it out, and hopefully volunteer. There's some good photos at CHDC as well.

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