New 'Peanuts' exhibit at York County Museum explores nature

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comMarch 4, 2012 

— Dozens of framed comic strip panels that line a York County museum wall prove that Snoopy frowns on pollution, Lucy van Pelt really thought snow came up from the ground and Charlie Brown once feared legal action by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nestled in a room slightly larger than the museum's lobby, Peanuts mementos, memorabilia and merchandise stand on wooden tables, some of them made of bamboo.

Snoopy and Woodstock puppets lay in wall-mounted cubbyholes, and a description etched on a wall explains that Peanuts creator Charles Schulz often used his characters to promote recycling and love for nature.

From March until September, the Museum of York County will host a new traveling exhibit, "Peanuts....Naturally," which is inspired by Schulz's iconic characters and their perspectives on the "web of nature" -- or natural world -- around them.

The exhibit landed in York County after representatives of the Charles Schulz Museum and Research Center in California presented plans for the Peanuts exhibit to different museums interested in in temporarily housing the display, said Teresa Armour, exhibits manager for the Museum of York County.

The Museum of York County was one of the first to say yes, she said.

Renting the exhibit costs museums $10,000, not including each museum's added costs for shipping, marketing, additional objects and other components, Armour said. An online itinerary shows that, as of 2011, York County was third on a list of 13 museums that booked the exhibit through 2016.

To make the exhibit even more visually appealing, Armour said museum leaders asked staff members to submit any Peanuts paraphernalia in their possession to include with the display.

Thus far, six to seven staff members have contributed, she said.

"It's interesting to see what people have saved and what means most to them," Armour said.

One of those people is Cate Crane, the museum's education director, who said that she always enjoyed Peanuts as a little girl.

In fact, it was Crane who put York County on the list of museums interested in featuring the Peanuts exhibit, she said.

"I thought it'd be a perfect fit" for the museum, she said.

Keeping with the theme, the museum will incorporate Peanuts into its planetarium, summer camps, summer programs and annual Earth Day celebration, said James Wells, museum family programs director.

This year's Earth Day Birthday will feature Charlotte illustrator Dave McDonald as part of an "It's Earth Day, Charlie Brown" event, Wells said.

McDonald, who created the Hamster Sam comic book characters and frequents the museum with his grandson, will teach kids about his own drawing style, which he adapted from Schulz and Rock Hill's Vernon Grant, he said.

Peanuts characters from Carowinds may also join the party, he added.

Though the exhibit is not scheduled to open until Saturday, the pieces to the nature-themed Peanuts discovery place are gradually coming together.

In the center of the room, a makeshift greenhouse complete with gardening tools and fake dirt will teach children about gardening.

A few steps to the right, the "elements" station offers a design-your-own-snowflake kiosk. In the "universe" area, children can draw constellations on an interactive touch screen.

Over in the "Trees, Glorious Trees" area, children can learn about tree rings and trace their own leaf images atop carved palettes.

Children will be able to take a test on energy consumption that gauges how well they conserve water and electricity.

Soon, a Snoopy and Woodstock doghouse will be available for children to crawl through.

Residents who are already members of the museum can get a sneak peek of the exhibit a few hours before it opens. Visitors to the children's museum in downtown Rock Hill will receive free passes to the Peanuts exhibit once it opens to the public.

The exhibit opens on Saturday at 10 a.m. It will be open until Sept. 3.

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