Silvia Liu still treasures the first item she collected: a dried-up baby turtle. She found it near Potter Lake while on a walk with her grandmother. At the time, she was just 4 years old. Years later, the turtle sits in her basement among the rest of the items she has collected from nature, in what she calls Silvia’s Natural Museum.
Silvia is now an 8-year-old second-grader at St. John Catholic School. April 14, during Family Day at Spencer Museum of Art, Silvia was chosen by Kristina Walker, the director of education at the museum, to speak to the children about how to start a collection. The event’s theme was “World of Wonder,” which emphasized collecting and collections.
“I knew that she had this collection of her own,” Walker said. “I thought it would make a great connection to what we are doing here, since she is a kid, and I thought it could inspire some other kids to start to their own collection, too.”
Silvia’s Nature Museum opened in the basement of her parents’ home in Lawrence in the summer of 2010. Museum visits are available by appointment. To make an appointment, "like" Silvia's Nature Museum on Facebook and request a visit.
Her museum is filled with shelves and shelves of natural items, such as snake skin, shells, furs, rocks, minerals and more. The items were either given to her as a gift, found or bought. She has bought antlers at garage sales, and other materials at rock and mineral shops while on vacation.
As she builds her collection, her parents, Kevin and Sofia Liu, help her learn more about the items.
“She has four or five antlers, and so she had a shelf where she had put together diagrams of a deer skull and different bone parts,” Kevin said.
Silvia also has taken the time to organize and classify her collection items. She has shelves dedicated to different types of items — for example, she has ocean shelves and plant shelves.
Altogether, Silvia has collected more than 100 items, and she is proud of them. One of her new favorite items is a yucca plant with a bird nest.
“I like that she is so excited about something and that she has stuck with it for so long,” Sofia said. “It’s fun to see.”