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Benjamin
Mark Mirko | Mmirko@courant.com  /  Hartford Courant
Benjamin said he was surprised that the museum readily admitted making a mistake, and he said the process taught him a valuable lesson. "If you have a question, always ask it," he said. "Always take chances."
By
TODAY.com
updated 5/4/2012 1:05:48 PM ET 2012-05-04T17:05:48

Every so often, a visitor at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City questions the accuracy of an exhibit, but Helen Evans, one of the museum's curators, says not all of them are right.

Benjamin Lerman Coady, however, was.

Benjamin, 13, of West Hartford, is a seventh-grader at Renbrook School. Fascinated by history, he reads ahead in his textbooks. His mother sees his passion for the past and tries to provide an environment where Benjamin feels free to explore his interests.

Read the original story: 13-Year-Old West Hartford Student Tells Metropolitan: 'Your Map Is Wrong

That's how mother and son ended up at The Metropolitan Museum of Art last summer.

At museum
Photo courtesy Joanne Lerman/courant.com
Dr. Helen Evans, the museum's curator for Byzantine art, has asked Benjamin Lerman Coady to draw his own version of what the map at the museum should look like — a task he is still working on. (Photo courtesy Joanne Lerman)

"It's more a parent seeing the world through a child's eyes," said Benjamin's mother, Joanne Lerman.

Benjamin wasn't quite sure what to expect at the art museum. He and his mother had visited the American Museum of Natural History a few times, but the Metropolitan was a new experience. Benjamin said he thought he'd see "just art on a wall."

He said he quickly learned that The Metropolitan is about more than just paintings — it's also about history.

While touring the museum, Benjamin and his mother stopped to look at the permanent exhibit about the Byzantine Empire — a part of history Benjamin had just studied in school.

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A map of the empire in the 6th century was on display, and Benjamin said he immediately began to check the dates. The map was supposed to show when the empire was at its largest, but Spain and part of Africa were missing, he said.

Benjamin told a museum docent about his observation, who instructed him to fill out a form at the front desk.

"The front desk didn't believe me," he said, explaining that he never expected to hear back from the museum. "I'm only a kid."

In September, he received a letter from the museum's senior vice president for external affairs. It said that his comments were being forwarded to the museum's medieval art department for further review.

A few months later — in January, Evans, the museum's Mary and Michael Jaharis curator for Byzantine art, sent Benjamin an email: "You are, of course, correct about the boundaries of the Byzantine Empire under Justinian," she wrote.

She invited Benjamin back to the museum to meet with her.

Benjamin said he was surprised that the museum readily admitted making a mistake, and he said the process taught him a valuable lesson.

"If you have a question, always ask it," he said. "Always take chances."

As for the error, Evans said this week that the museum is still working to fix it.

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The error was probably made when the map was reprinted a few years ago, and the museum is trying to decide whether it should now display more than one map reflecting the empire's history, she said. It takes a while to create a new map because it involves working with a mapmaker, Evans explained.

Benjamin met Evans at the museum in February, bringing her a gift — notepads from Renbrook School.

In return, Evans showed him around the museum, gave him a sneak preview of a new exhibit and discussed the Byzantine Empire. She also asked him to draw his own version of what the map at the museum should look like — a task he is still working on.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Video: Watch this baby read

Explainer: Whiz kids: These 11 small fry have big talents

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Photos: Meet 'Mini Monet'

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  1. Meet 'Mini Monet'

    Kieron Williamson, who just turned 8, is drawing collectors from as far as New York City and South Africa to his little British town of Holt. An exhibition of his paintings fetched the equivalent of $235,804 in under 30 minutes. London's Daily Mail dubbed him "Mini Monet." (Alban Donohoe / ©Albanpix.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Wending water

    This pastel by Kieron Williamson is titled "Morston Buoys." (Alban Donohoe / ©Albanpix.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Cloudy view

    Young Kieron Williamson is particularly attracted to landscapes of his native Norfolk, England. (Alban Donohoe / ©Albanpix.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Tide of talent

    This pastel by Kieron Williamson is titled "Morston Low Tide." (Alban Donohoe / ©Albanpix.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. "Wherry at Dusk"

    Another pastel by Kieron Williamson, whose parents say was inspired to start creating landscapes at age 5 during a family vacation. (Alban Donohoe / ©Albanpix.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. "St. Benet's Abbey"

    "We have no garden or outside space," said young artist Kieron Williamson's mother, Michelle. "Perhaps he's had to create his own scenery." (Alban Donohoe / ©Albanpix.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. "City Temple, London"

    Kieron Williamson told the London Daily Mail: “I like painting because it’s fun and inspiring. It makes me think of places I can’t see.” (Alban Donohoe / ©Albanpix.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Above: Slideshow (7) Meet ‘Mini Monet’
  2. Fame Pictures
    Slideshow (17) Pint-size prodigy’s paintings sell for $250,000

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