What is to be different in these temporary exhibitions is not their challenging nature: The society has already tackled AIDS and the Crown Heights racial disturbance, among other topics. Rather, the chance for personal, hands-on involvement -- with the stress on intergenerational communication -- is the new keynote.
If the Dodgers show is a clue, the approach will not be glitzy. As you enter, you pass a black-and-white photo mural of Ebbets Field. It is made of photocopies pasted together, but looks better than this suggests. The first stop is an arched "hall" that leads to the "field."
This is the "locker room," complete with uniforms and catcher's equipment for children to try on -- that is, if they can wrest the stuff away from their fathers. Inspiration comes from a life-size photo of Robinson putting his spikes on.
Then comes the piece de resistance, the 1955 World Championship banner. It had gone to Los Angeles with the hated traitors, been stolen back by patriotic Brooklynites, then followed a circuitous path.
Peter O'Malley, the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was kind enough to return it last year, a gesture the society chose not to see as empty. Indeed, an impressive display of the banner in a place of prominence in the permanent collection is in the works.
Suddenly, you realize you're in a ballpark, though a very, very tiny one. The floor of the exhibition area is carpeted with Astroturf and has three bases in addition to the home plate where you pretend to be Robinson. The third base is the original one from Ebbets Field; it is enclosed in a plastic case.
In one corner is the "WBHS" studio, a child-size radio booth where children can play the part of radio sportscaster and re-create old baseball games.
This harks back to the days sportscasters were fed information by telegraph, then used sound effects to transport listeners, the way a young sportscaster named Ronald Reagan covered Chicago Cubs games for a Des Moines, Iowa, station.
Umpire sounds? Call out "Strike three, yeeer out!" A happy crowd? Cup your hands over your mouth and whisper, "Raaaah-raaaah." An angry crowd? Get up close to the mike and say "rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb" very quickly. Bat striking ball? Gently hit the bamboo with the mallet.
There is a xylophone to make a jingle for your own station, and an old-time Wheaties commercial to read, if you have nothing of your own to advertise.
There is a time line depicting the history of both Brooklyn baseball and the borough itself. The baseball chronology says that in 1960 Ebbets Field was demolished to become an apartment building, and a sign was posted: "No Baseball Playing Allowed."
The Brooklyn countdown relates that in 1884, P. T. Barnum tested the year-old Brooklyn Bridge by sending a herd of 20 elephants across. In 1977, "Saturday Night Fever," starring John Travolta, was filmed on location in Bay Ridge.
Visitors are then invited to write pieces of their own history on the same time line. Reads one: "John Connelly came from Limerick, Ireland, before the Statue of Liberty Arrived."
Efforts are made to direct instruction to different age groups. In particular, Robinson's significance is explained in one level of signs for children, and just beneath for adults in a more sophisticated manner.
For example, the children's sign describes Robinson's history in the old Negro League, while the adult commentary -- in smaller letters -- puts these leagues in the context of such autonomous black organizations as the Nation of Islam.
Ira Glasser, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, tells of the hero's relevance to the struggle for civil rights. "The way Jackie Robinson danced off third base, we tried to live," he said.
There is much more, though the simplest stuff seems the most popular. A collection of books about Brooklyn and its sports legends draws browsers of all ages.
An area is set aside for children to draw on, with pencils and crayons provided. In a bathroom, Count Basie plays "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" and "Let's Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn," among other tunes. The songs make you smile if you can hum past the empty feeling.
A battered old catcher's mitt offers a lesson in fate, as seen from an Ebbets Field vantage. It belonged to Mickey Owen, who wore it when he made the error that cost the Dodgers game No. 4 of the 1941 World Series to the Yankees, who then led 3 games to 1, and went on to win the whole enchilada.
It is this sad, sad game that is played over a sound system, not loudly, but again and again. Nothing else. A visitor begged Ms. Bedford to stop it. She almost did, then reconsidered. "Losing is part of the Dodger tradition," she said.
If you go
"Play Ball!" -- an interactive exhibition with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson as its centerpiece -- will be on view through May at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn Heights. Hours: Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Admission: $2.50; $1 for children and senior citizens. Information: (718) 624-0890.
The Dodgers are also the subject of one of five permanent displays at the society; the others are devoted to Coney Island, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklynites.
Issues touched upon in the "Play Ball!" exhibition are the inspiration for several events. Stories from the glory days of Brooklyn in the 1940s and 1950s are to be told Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. by George Accola; free with museum admission. "Winter Sunday Fun," activities for families based on "Play Ball!" and other museum shows, is to take place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Sunday in February and March; free with museum admission.