3-Minute Interview: Joe Callahan

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Local,DC,Kristen Byrne

Callahan is deputy director of 826DC, a nonprofit dedicated to helping students with their creative and expository writing skills. 826DC just opened their Museum of Unnatural History in Columbia Heights.

What does 826DC offer?

We have free programming and tutoring for students and we also host in-school workshops. We work with teacher to promote writing in the classroom as well.

How did you come up with the idea of the Museum of Unnatural History?

The museum was the vision of two volunteers at our organization. Their idea was based on 18th and 19th century explorers and the artifacts found and the stories they told. We decided to run with this playful take.

What makes this museum unique from others?

Essentially it's the concept of the world is as strange as you want it to be. We want people to come in and ask questions.

What exhibits are presented in the museum? We have a "build your own species" station, where kids can put together a creature of their imagination. We also have a giant skeleton, a big cave made out of 700 pounds of concrete, and a curious creatures exhibit. We have animals like the "owlephant," which is a snowy owl with an elephant trunk.

How does the museum pertain to the 826DC mission?

First, every organization in the country has a themed storefront. But it also plays into our education mission for kids. This gets children to ask questions about science or archaeology, subjects that aren't always discussed in the classroom.

What is the importance of writing today?

In a time when more people are using the written word more than ever, it is important for these younger generations to know how to write. With texting and e-mailing, writing has become a major source or communication and an impactful way to express ideas. I think writing is a fundamental for future success.

-- Kristen Byrne

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