We've always considered beading strictly a consumer endeavor -- as in, we don't want to look at them, we just want to buy them. And it is true that we were immediately sidetracked by the Bead Museum's large (perhaps larger than the exhibit space itself, although, to be fair, it's under construction) gift shop. But after we were done shopping and plunked down our very reasonable $4 admission fee, we had to admit an instantaneous appreciation for the history of the bead. It's a mind-boggling chronicle dating way back to prehistoric times, when superstitious but fashion-conscious cavemen first strung seashells, seeds and animal bones into personal adornment for ritual and talismanic protection against stone-age evils, like man-eating mammals, marauding enemy clansmen and your run-of-the-mill natural disasters. Glendale's Bead Museum is one of the few in the world actually devoted solely to the bead. And, even with its exhibit space under renovation, we got more than an inkling of the historical and cultural importance of beads. Museum organizers have arranged their carefully culled collection in glass cases, which include well-labeled pull-out drawers in which artifacts are arranged by subject matter -- a great way to observe not only single beads, but beaded jewelry and ritual objects from around the globe in bite-size chunks. Both antique and contemporary beads and adornment from various cultures in Africa, East Asia, Europe, Latin America and India fill cases and drawers, all with engaging photos and text explaining what you're looking at and its basic significance. As we left Glendale, we vowed that our next outing will be to the Arizona Rock and Mineral Museum in downtown Phoenix. Just what goes on in that giant claw outside the museum, anyway?