Visiting the City Museum in St. Louis,

published at 1:09pm on 09/29/11

I had the pleasure of visiting the City Museum in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago when I was in town for the Strange Loop conference. At the urging of a friend, I went on Saturday night, when most of the other visitors were also adults. The museum is open until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights, and provide a wonderful alternative to a night in a bar. For two hours I ran around the museum, climbing giant metal structures and sliding down multi-story slides.

So I was saddened to learn that the visionary behind the City Museum, Bob Cassilly, died on Monday when the bulldozer he was driving rolled down a hill. A month ago, I had never even heard of the City Museum, but I’m glad to have been able to visit it when Cassilly was still alive, to have been able to experience the magic that he put into the place.

One of the things that I found so magical about the space was that it was unabashedly a playground, but not an entirely safe one. You can slide down a slide and find yourself in a tiny room, where you have to crawl on your hands and knees out into a tree to get out. You will find yourself climbing in a little steel mesh metal tube, five stories above the ground, and heaven help you if you drop your wallet. And there are no signs warning you not to have fun. There is nothing telling you to not shimmy along your back in a foot and a half of space overhanging the ball pit, because you might get stuck. There is no guard telling you that you are too big to squeeze through that opening. The whole space seems to encourage you to take responsibility for your own actions, and if you do so, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing experience, no strings attached.

It’s important to remember this as we go through life. That, for the most part, the actions we take are our own. But if we do it right, and if we take some risks, we’ll come out better on the other side.

(see more photos from the City Museum)

Filed under: Observations, Personal

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