museums are f***ing awesome: my experience with Museum Hack

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Since seeing ads of MuseumHack’s tours around twitter and the web, I had been interested in knowing more about what they do. Their delightful irreverence and dedication to humor aligns with my personal education philosophy. It’s clear that these people have passion for what they do.
WCMA had the treat of working with NYC’s Museum Hack for a WCMA at Night program. As a staff member, I was able to participate in their program and a professional development with the hackers.
Talking with the hackers, I learned that not only are they talented educators, but brilliant marketing strategists. They serve an audience that I think is often ignored by museums.
Museum Hack is great at creating tours for millennials and young professionals who want a social experience and do not necessarily regularly attend museums. Their audience includes bachelorette parties and corporate retreats. The tour guides are a mix of extremely outgoing art history majors and theatre folks who love visual art. Their strength lies in their ability to engage their audience, and re-engage at each tour stop. They are not shy about using ipads as a visual prop, including both images of other artworks they refer to, GIFs, slang and references to the online social media world. They encourage hashtag contests, make jokes about instagram and get group members to make status updates based on a work of art. Hackers create a great sense of visitor comfort in a space that can be intimidating for non-museum users.
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Overall they are radically informal, irreverent and relational while delivering juicy stories about a work of art.
Museum hack is successful as an outside entity. Although other museum ed departments develop informal and highly social experiences, the Hack team can fully indulge because they don’t have to worry about seeming insultingly informal to a curator.
I have heard of educators critiquing their group as dismissive of the work that education departments already do in museums. However, Hack attracts groups that would not normally think to visit a museum. They are pretty brilliant at recruiting and promoting themselves in non-museum audience circles. Their tour approach focuses on passionate storytelling, informal humor, and relating directly to the visitor.
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Wait…what?

No, I don’t think that museums are boring.

I am an incredibly biased museum worker who thinks that museums are awesome spaces for encountering objects, exploring new ideas and socializing with friends and family. However, it’s hard to ignore the stigma that comes with museums when MUSEUMS ARE gets finished with BORING in the google search box.

museums are boring google

We live in exciting times on the museum frontier. Museums are rethinking how they connect with audiences. Transparency and accountability are becoming standard values and ethics in practice. This is a space to explore exciting ideas in museum practice, a place for me to reflect and document my own projects, and hopefully, a space to generate conversation around museum, creative and community practice.

 

Let’s get started.