I have a activity I use with my middle schoolers either before or after a
similar museum visit that might prove useful to you. I create a catalog page
with a variety of "artifacts" from the 20th century (items I cut out of the
jillions of catalogs I receive.) Students are told to pretend they are
archeologists from 2500 and have found an old catalog in the cellar of an
historic house from 1999. Only one page is readable. Their job is to "read"
the artifacts on the page to determine what people were like 500 years ago.
I do a few with them, so they get the idea. We consider economic status,
what they did for recreation, occupations, what they ate, what they wore,
etc. From these answers we can determine climate, landscape, technology,
means of transportation, housing, etc. It's a great one-class-period lesson.
Brattleboro Area Middle School