Doors Within Doors

doors within doors

Art museums, science centers, parks, zoos, aquariums – these places share a common thread in that they are fully immersive environments that encourage individuals to follow his/ her/ their own path, exploring, discovering, and learning.

Then, Meow Wolf.

Take the concept of immersive learning and infuse it with powerful storytelling, artistic expression, unbound creativity, and fierce playfulness. Then crank it to eleven. THAT is Meow Wolf. Katie and her son recently discovered Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Take it away, Katie!


Meow Wolf: House of Eternal Return. Crazy name for an art exhibit, right? Turns out it’s not only crazy, it is a hands-on, completely captivating, artist inspired, mystery to be solved, fantastical world, storytelling experience that’s *really* hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there. With that said, I’m going to try to explain it, because I was absolutely blown away by this place.

meow wolf exhibit sign

Some history about Meow Wolf: it was formed in 2008 by a group of 12 artists living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who chose their name by literally pulling words out of a hat. Now operating as an art collective of nearly 200 people, they create unique art experiences for audiences of all ages, or as they so wonderfully describe their vision on their website: “Meow Wolf champions otherness, weirdness, challenging norms, radical inclusion, and the power of creativity to change the world.”

With support from Game of Thrones author and Santa Fe resident George R. R. Martin, who purchased a defunct bowling alley and leased it to the group, Meow Wolf turned the once forgotten building into a permanent art exhibit, House of Eternal Return, which opened in March 2016.

meow wolf sculptureEmployees working the House of Eternal Return ticket counter encourage you to touch everything, explore everywhere, and fully engage yourself within the over 20,000 square foot exhibit.

When you enter, you are immediately greeted by a massive two-story Victorian mansion owned by the fictional Selig family, who vanished after conducting forbidden experiments inside the home. If you look closely at the house, you’ll see small credits given to George R. R. Martin. Wolves and dragons appear in the scrawling woodwork. The front doormat reads “Beyond Here There Be Dragons.”

meow wolf houseYou start investigating the mystery of the Selig family disappearance by finding a mailbox and reading messages written on the cards inside. The cards provide hints and clues to search for while you wander through the maze of rooms and hallways.

meow wolf mailboxDeeper inside the exhibit, there’s a mechanical raven (another Game of Thrones nod, perhaps?), which occasionally flaps its wings and chatters at the visitors below.

meow wolf ravenMy son and I spent nearly four hours wandering through the House of Eternal Return. The exhibit has dozens of hidden doors and portals to unique and fascinating places, which through the story strangely connect in some weird way to each other. Crawling through the fireplace brings you to a cave where you can play music on the rib bones of a giant glowing mastodon.

meow wolf illunimated skeletonWalking through the open door of an ice machine takes you into a room full of lights and mirrors, where you push buttons to change the lights and play different notes of music.

meow wolf blue lightsGoing through the refrigerator leads you down a sterile white hallway into what appears to be a rocket ship, ready to take you to futuristic tropical destinations.

doors within doorsThere are also strange space monsters that blink their eyes at you when you walk by.

meow wolf furry alienWalls of fabric that reveal an ever-changing light show when you touch it (or floss dance between the wavy cloth).


You can also try stuffing yourself down the slide portal inside the dryer, which ends in a small room with walls completely covered in laundry. For those of you wondering, yes, I did manage to squeeze my way into the dryer, much to my son’s amusement. There is another door into (or out of) the laundry room, but my son and I couldn’t figure out where it was after leaving the room.

meow wolf dryer portalThe entire exhibit is a mystery you have to attempt to solve, but honestly, I don’t believe there is one definite solution. Visitors interpret art differently, so what one person thinks is the answer, another may believe something completely different.

I can’t say enough about the House of Eternal Return: it is a must-see place. This post barely scratches the surface with all there is to see and experience. Pictures really don’t do it justice because everywhere you look, there’s something distinctly different and jaw-dropping. It’s funky and fun, inspiring and incredible. If you are in Santa Fe and visit Meow Wolf, plan on spending many hours exploring and getting lost within this one-of-a-kind immersive art labyrinth.

I can’t WAIT to go back.

It’s Elementary

elementaryCalling all consulting detectives…grab your sparkle stem magnifying glass and examine this most intriguing collection of 18th and 19th century puzzle cards. And, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, the answers to these cards are at the end of the post (and you can print a set of your own)!

You’ll need:

Cut a drinking straw down to 3″. Gently fold a sparkle stem in half (soft fold, not hard) and thread the ends into the straw. Round the sparkle stem loop sticking out of the top of the straw. Done!

sparkle stem magnifying glassAnd what of those curious cards? They are reproductions of 18th and 19th century rebus puzzle cards in our library’s special collections. A rebus (also called a hieroglyphic) puzzle is created using pictures in place of syllables or entire words. Sometimes, the placement of an object is important to the puzzle as well.

Here are 6 cards from our vaults, all hailing from England. The top three cards are from Feronica’s Hieroglyphical Riddles (publisher unknown, circa 1840). Across the bottom row, from left to right, are cards from Peter Ponder’s First Pack of Puzzle Cards (J. Aldis, 1808), Wallis’s New Pack of Puzzles for 1798 (John Wallis and Champante & Whitrow, 1798), and An Entire Pack of New Puzzle Cards (W. and T. Darton, circa 1805).

Want to try these puzzle cards on a few young detectives? You’ll find a printable set here!

rebus cards, from the collections of the cotsen children's library, princeton university


The solutions, moving top row to bottom row, left to right:

Handsome is that handsome does
Better a little fish than empty dish
Awl is well that ends well
Two implements of an excellent sport: bat and ball (for Cricket, of course!)
What most people are fond of: toasted muffin
Troublesome insects: ant, caterpillar, snail, earwig, and ladybird

Bestseller

bestseller

The objective? To arrange the books so that the top shelf is perfectly level. But you can only use certain books, in certain orientations, with a minimum of 2 books touching the top shelf at any time. Oh, and leave some room for a little black cat!

Today, I’m reviewing By The Book, a stacking puzzle for ages 8+ (Brainwright, $18). The game consists of 40 challenge cards, 12 wooden books, 2 wooden shelves, 1 plastic cat, and 1 balance level made to look like an adorable red flower pot.

by the book gameTo play, select a challenge card (which are graded as beginner, intermediate, advanced, or expert). The face of the card tells you which books you can use, if they need to be placed horizontally or vertically, or if they can’t touch at all. Sometimes, the card will require the cat to be included on the shelf as well. The back side of the card has the solution. Here are a couple examples of card faces and solutions:

challenge cardsOnce you’ve gathered all the relevant pieces, lay the bottom shelf on a level surface, then try configuring the books to the card’s specifications. Put the top shelf in place when you think you’re done, then place the balance level on top to see if your solution measures up. And remember – a minimum of 2 books much be touching the top shelf at any time.

If your solution passes the level test, flip the card over to see if matches the official solution (and the rules do mention there may be other ways to solve the challenge). Some of the solutions, however, are not what you expect! Look at this creative configuration!

stacked solution

When playing this game, it’s important to work on a level surface. If your work table is tilted, you’ll never reach a solution. So use the level to make doubly sure you’re nice and even before you start playing.

So, what did our kid testers (ages 6, 8, and 10) think of By The Book? They loved it! The game requires analysis, trial & error, testing, and re-testing, but it’s very calm, non-competitive, and you can take as long as you like to reach the solution. By The Book is labeled as a 1 player game, but our kid testers found ways to collaborate. The cat adds a nice touch, and the kid tester found it very satisfying to put the level on the top shelf to see if their clever arranging worked!

testing a solution

By The Book is the best (a “bestseller,” if you will). It’s fun, intelligent, works with a large age range of kids, and the pieces are really nice quality. This would be a terrific classroom chill-out activity, the perfect addition to library game nights, or an awesome gift from that super cool librarian aunt or uncle. Plus, it comes with a CAT! Five out of five stars.