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PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - A Philadelphia museum has taken a novel approach to teach children about science and history by using props from the Narnia movies based on the famous books of C.S. Lewis.
The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia's leading science museum, is hosting an exhibition of costumes, weapons and memorabilia that were used to make the films about a fantasy land called Narnia.
But the props aren't just a glimpse inside a movie set or the evocation of a fantasy land that has gripped children for almost 60 years. They have been used to focus the minds of young visitors on a range of environmental, scientific and historical issues that lie behind the items themselves.
"It's about recapturing imagination and rekindling curiosity," said Michael Flaherty, the president of Walden Media which produced the movies and advised the institute on the exhibition.
The show, which opens on November 28 and runs until April 2009, aims to stimulate visitors by taking the dual approach, he explained.
The icy throne, where the White Witch presided over a land where it was always winter but never Christmas, leads visitors to a series of panels on the human effects on global climate, and invites them to push a button to find out why the artificial snow falling on their shoulders is white.
Elsewhere, the show uses a quote about "felling forests and defiling streams" from a character in the Prince Caspian movie to encourage visitors to consider the rate of deforestation in the world today.
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition" also contains many references to England in the 1940s when Lewis's characters lived. It includes World War II memorabilia such as the blankets and suitcases used by London residents when they sheltered from Nazi bombing raids in the city Underground subway system.
School uniforms worn by the four children during their journeys through Narnia, and a box of Turkish Delight, a confection prized by the British but which was hard to come by amid the rationing of war-time London, are also on display.
For those interested in more distant history, there's a catapult from a battle in the stories which visitors can use to fling soccer ball-sized rocks into a net. They are invited to imagine how it was used by the military.
Nearby, a model of a castle illustrates its design features such as thick stone walls, a drawbridge and a portcullis.
Even Einstein's theory of relativity gets a mention in a panel reminding visitors that "time passes differently" in Narnia, and noting that Lewis was interested in Einstein's assertion that time was "not a universal constant."
At the end of the show, young visitors are encouraged to consider how the children's adventures embody valuable life lessons.
"Prince Caspian and the Pevensie children have shown that demonstrating virtue and making the right choices allows us to coexist peacefully with others and live in harmony with nature," says a plaque at the exit.
"As you leave Narnia and return to your own world, keep these ideas and important lessons with you as you continue on your own journey."