chapter  5
Imagination—A Child’s Gateway to Engagement with the Past • Daniel Spock |
Pages 20

In 2006 the Minnesota History Center opened an exhibition called Open House: If These Walls Could Talk. The exhibition chronicles the lives of a diverse group of families who all happened to live in one actual, ordinary house over 118 years. Part of the experience involves making comparisons between the various families and their experiences over time. As it turned out, one common thread that our research turned up was the practice of keeping chickens. The German, Italian, and, most recently, Hmong immigrants who lived in the house all raised and butchered chickens in the basement, a fact recreated in meticulous detail in the exhibition. One day, I saw an older man, whose feed cap, beard, and suspenders telegraphed his agricultural roots, leaving with a boy I took to be his grandson. The old man looked at the boy and said, “How’s about every time you wanted a McNugget, you had to kill a chicken?” The boy stopped and got a faraway look in his eyes as he struggled to imagine this.