Thursday, August 12, 2010

Awesomely Unique Idea: MSI’s Month at the Museum

Yesterday was the closing day for submissions to the Month at the Museum contest for Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.  The Museos Unite team found out about the contest right when it was announced on July 15th via the magic of Twitter (great example of well utilized social media)! 

A bit of background on the contest, in case you are not familiar.  Entrants were to submit a 60-second video, a 500-word essay, a headshot, and an entrance packet to the museum.  The prize is to live at the museum for 30 days with minimal contact with the outside world, exploring the museum and interacting with guests throughout.

As far as we know, no museum in the world has hosted a program like this one, although a few days ago we wrote about how people used to live at the National Museum of Natural History.  I am sure Museos used to live at museums all the time in the old days. As it is the FIRST EXPERIMENT OF ITS KIND (!!!) we have to applaud MSI heartily. Hooray for thinking outside the box!  Hooray for inviting a stranger to view the inner workings of the museum! Hooray for capturing the imaginations of people throughout the world!

Yesterday the museum announced via its Facebook and Twitter pages that there have been over 1,000 applications thus far. What a great response! When was the last time that a museum got that kind of attention for something that wasn’t a sponsored blockbuster exhibit?  (Really, if you know, please put it in the comments! We’d love to be able to draw some comparisons).

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this Museo (Kat) totally applied! I figured it would be a great opportunity to see firsthand just how groundbreaking projects can change the industry. It also would give me an opportunity to use all of this great museum knowledge I have racked up over the years, right?

We cannot wait to see what changes that Month at the Museum inspires across the museum industry.  Will there be spinoff projects at other institutions?  Will it create a Museo-lebrity that kids will be lining up to get autographs from? Will it make even more people rush to get Museum Studies degrees? Stay tuned to find out…

So, some questions for our readers: Did any of you put in applications? What possible changes do you think could come from this project? What do you think of the attention MSI has garnered for Month at the Museum? Any other comments?


  1. Is this really an "awesome" idea or just one step closer to putting museums on the same level as cheesy reality shows?

  2. I would have loved to have applied, but alas, Canadians need not apply. @Anonymous, I don't think this "(puts) museums on the same level as cheesy reality shows". I think it's an idea that appeals to a modern body of visitors, who do like things like "cheesy reality shows", but doesn't seem to be built around the same principles as those programmes (drama, drama, and more drama).

  3. @Anonymous - I would be interested to know what you thought of "Work of Art" (the show that just ended that featured undiscovered artists). The winner of that show will have an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.

    Do you think that show was cheesy? It did feature talented people, and teach the public about the process of creating artwork, exhibiting (in a way), and other aspects of being an artist.*

    Yes, they dramatized everything and had the communal living element like in Big Brother. But in some ways it did bring art and museums into the spotlight.

    The MATM contest could have gone that route very easily (making it a group living situation and a reality TV show). However, MSI is taking the opposite route, trying to take a person out of a social situation and making them go one-on-one with a museum collection. (Basically, this is what @J Goreham-Penney said)

    Hmmm, I wonder if the next museum to try something similar will end up making something more like "Work of Art." Or if Bravo will just make a show with people researching and designing science or history exhibits next.

    *Disclaimer: I did not religiously watch the show, although my roommate did. Therefore, my opinions of it are based on watching about 2 episodes out of however many there were.

  4. @Kat

    Cheesiness is in the whey of the beholder, I guess.

    But if you saw any of the "art" from "Work of Art" outside of the context/hype of the show would you consider it worthy of inclusion in an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum otherwise?

  5. Good luck, Kat. You're working at a bit of a disadvantage - they are explicitly looking for someone who doesn't have museum or scientific experience -- someone with a fresh perspective who can have their life "transformed" by the institution. You may note a tinge of sarcasm. I am genuinely interested in this project but a bit skeptical of its origins in the PR department (and ready to be proven wrong!).