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Now you see it, now you don't

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You might not think of a museum as a place to try to fiddle with a puzzle. But the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is looking to change all that.

Salon Cassatt, a family-oriented and art-friendly room within the Mary Cassatt exhibition, is an interactive computer center that offers visitors a chance to do more than just admire the artist's paintings. Both adults and children can play around with the composition, patterns, and colors of her works on computers, all with the click of a mouse.

For instance, museumgoers can alter the look of Cassatt's popular painting "Tea" by changing the color or pattern of the wallpaper, eliminating the silver tea service, or taking away the cup that covers part of one woman's face. As each item is added or removed, the nature of the painting changes.

Visitors also can click on another icon and compare Cassatt's works with those of French painters Edgar Degas and James Tissot, Sandro Botticelli, and Japanese printmakers such as Kitagawa Utamaro.

Salon Cassatt is an excellent resource to learn more about Cassatt and the period in which she lived. Visitors are encouraged to lounge on comfy couches and listen to music from the turn of the century, play with giant jigsaw puzzles, or flip through books on Cassatt's life and works.

"This was a pleasant surprise, and the kids love it," says Robert Pastorelli of Framingham, Mass. He visited the MFA with his two young children during winter break. "It's great for kids because it gives them something to do. And it's also fun for adults."

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