I am back! Well, other than me working part time for several months at a Japanese bakery/cafe and surviving that… How was your week or weekend? Mine was ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!
I decided it was high time to go out of my comfort box on Friday July 21st at night (a “box” is more realistic in my opinion than a zone as it sounds like something without defined barriers and I like the snug aspect of a box) and venture out into New York to attend a tour organized by the sassy Museum Hack at the Metropolitan Museum.
Also since graduating from a New York college in January 2017 and spending half a year not commuting to New York (I live in suburbia New Jersey by the way) I’ve forgotten how mentally taxing New York was. So, of course by the time I arrived at the MET I was shell-shocked to say the least, but good news by the end of the tour I was extremely invigorated and motivated to get shell shocked again for my commute back home. I have to give thanks to the NYC subway Gods that all links were working and that I was safely ushered across the bridge into sleepy, peaceful New Jersey.
Now on to the fun stuff!
A new experience awaits in… NEW YORK!
“Story telling is more important than Art History” Nick Gray, founder and CEO of Museum Hack at TEDx Talk
Now that I have your attention with this quote that has no context (just yet) and it’s creating a marvelous response, let me explain why I chose it and how it ties in with the cool guided tour I had at the MET.
[Disclaimer, I am a history major with a love for research and I will research the HELL out of activities before diving into them, you know, in case it back fires and adjustments have to be made aka what to do when a meteor strikes in NYC.]
Yes, I know, I pulled a quote to make me look smarter and more relevant and before y’all start judging me, let me explain why. First of all, quotes can add substance to an article, blog or even an essay, especially if they are used correctly and honestly, *coughs* I will admit that I miss writing academic essays =.= (Mhhhh, love me some Chicago manual style citations) And now to address the elephant in the room, the person who I am quoting from, if you are reading this Nick, you do you boo, peace and no shade and…you are a beautiful elephant. Here you can find more info about this beautiful elephant.
With this quote I think I got the attention of the younger generation, I can see them scratching their chins with piqued interests and echo “Elaborate, I am all ears”.
It’s a provocative statement. It is so hot in fact that it is perfect for kindling a fire underneath the dry and aging derrière of Caesar Academia and his youthful, glamorous and sharp companion MuseuCleopatram [let’s just roll with that terrible pun]. She’s the queen of parties. Her ways are very alluring, tempting the feeble-minded to explore her collection of precious antiques [I am really trying not to fill this with innuendos] and artifacts and brusquely shutting the doors in front of your face once you’ve formed the slightest attachment to these objects. So of course, because you are desperate you keep visiting her like that old friend of yours (that you possibly don’t care much about) who had this awesome new video game console in hopes that he/she will let you play and eventually borrow that damn thing, but to no avail, at the most glorious moment in-game he/she just kicks you out with the excuse that “my mom’s coming back” or “I need to eat dinner”. Ahhhh, memories and I want to pull out my hair!
Okay, forgive my writer persona, but you get what I mean, storytelling has a dual purpose for one it attracts people and allows them to suspend reality (more like the boring or harshness of life) and secondly it has the power to educate. Think of the popular folk tales and fairy tales like the Brother Grimm’s, most had a moral to their story and sometimes had a hidden agenda to scare some discipline and manners into these little shits (aka kids) who thought it was a great idea not to question the presence of a wolf in their grandmother’s bed or eat crumbs from the dirty ground and munch on an old lady’s home. If you want to see how messed up fairy tales are, check the story of Little Snow White by the Brothers Grimm… When Snow White becomes a queen she forces her evil mother to dance in burning red shoes until she dies… Yeahh, deliver the most painful deaths to your enemies, great lesson to be learned kids!
Entertain first then educate later – sounds like a great dating tip
Now, as a writer with an imagination that runs on self-induced LSD, I was interested in what Museum Hack had to offer, especially after doing some research on the company and their funny website, so I booked one of their tours The Metropolitan Museum of Art: VIP Tour. What immediately sold me were these two sentences: “Do you love long lectures on the important brushstrokes of the great masters? Rumination on the depth of color used in the 19th century? NEITHER DO WE” and this one “our fabulous tour guides will show you and your fellow VIP guests the behind-the-scenes, scandalous secrets, backstories, and hidden nooks and crannies of the Greatest Museum on Earth”. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t indulge in some gossip, we are all very curious by default and if that can kick the gallery fatigue to the curb, I will wholeheartedly take part in it.
Oh? Gallery fatigue... Why, yes you noticed a contradiction to my vivid and enamored description of MuseuCleopatram that was alluding to the wonders of the museum and my slight reservations on museums? Well, let me elaborate. I’ve never been an avid museum goer, mostly because they were too far and ain’t got time for that was the norm in a busy family of 9 people.
However, in elementary school I became so infatuated with Dinosaurs all thanks to my passionate teachers going out of their way to bring 30 rambunctious kids to actual dig sites and Dinosaur museums. I remembered digging up fossils and staring in awe at the giant, towering skeleton of T-Rex. I watched as my teacher’s faces lit up with excitement as they explained these creatures… But that innocent love was unceremoniously mauled and literally torn apart after I watched the Jurassic Park, thank you Steven Spielberg.
You got a bad case of “passion”, tough luck dealing with that
As time passed, when college took over my life and I was caught in the amorous and torrential love of creative writing and history, museums suddenly became more interesting (fyi I also did an internship at a Museum, which can become a topic for another time). I fell into American History or more like I crashed through the doors into a classroom and never came back out. I was enthralled by the story behind the American Revolution taught by a Professor who was a treasure trove of knowledge and who made sure to keep everything relevant and interesting like along the lines of the humor of the kid book series I grew up with aptly called Horrible Histories [I need to order the box set pronto! And wouldn’t it be a dream to work for them?! History and humor, oh ma gawd! >.<].
The professor even printed out a recipe of a colonial American beer and handed it out to the class and spoke about how much our colonial ancestors chugged more beer per capita than today, and psst, as 21st century beer and liquor chuggers we suck in comparison to our colonial ancestors, but at least we live longer and less dangerously. Here are some examples of colonial beer recipes.
Passion got me into history and passion is what drives these tour guides at Museum Hack
In a group of over ten people, two animated tour guides, the two lovelies Anna and Evan, managed to whiz us through the overwhelming and daunting Metropolitan museum [picture Cleopatra] dropping fact bombs right and left while maintaining an energetic and bubbly presence. I enjoyed how brutally honest they were giving jabs at the METs decisions on certain pieces or questioning the lay out, but overall it was artfully and humorously done – without burning down the entire MET of course.
And that’s what the tour was about, unearthing tid bits of background info on artifacts and sharing some giggles. I liked how we were told that the only reason Tutankhamen was popular was because his grave was the only one that hadn’t been disturbed and robbed by the grave robbers until its discovery. And what the old conservative explorer who discovered the grave failed to mention was how Tutankhamen was a fangirl of Egyptian deities, he covered his body in black color to resemble the Egyptian God Osiris who represented the fertility of the Nile floodplains. In addition (and likely to compensate for… just look at the damn picture already) he wanted to make sure the world knew how he was THE most excited and most endowed in the world by having his junk vertically reinforced (I am not sure if it was a stick, some rope or clay) a la the-higher-you-are-the-closer-you-are-to-God style.
Also ancient Egyptians enjoyed a fair amount of Photoshop, because apparently they omitted the cleft lip, club foot, womanly hips of the supposed handsome Tutankhamen! [A random food for thought, how much of the paintings found in the galleries are an identical copy of their subject, especially taking into consideration artists who paint in one style? Let that blow your mind!]
Guide, Games and Gossip
As discussed above, a passionate person is infectious which can also be said about an amazing actor as well, when he or she has the power to wow the audience. To keep the 3-hour tour interesting other than factually, some team bonding and silliness had to occur. We were paired up in groups and given tags that followed the yearbook ranking system of “likely to succeed”, “prom king”, etc. and told to choose a painting from the European painting sections. It brought on some laughter and burns, but otherwise it was all fun.
The security guards were such good sports too. They pretty much surveyed us with a glazed over look that translated to “here we go again, the usual silliness” as we sat down on the floor to mediate and listen someone play the jaw harp.
In the end, does it even matter?
Yes, the experience did matter! For one I was entertained and educated at the same time, who would have thought about that? No, seriously, one can have fun while being educated, it is incredibly vital that passionate people like Evan and Anna are in the forefront of education or in museums. Passion makes a difference in a person’s life. I first got into history because my High School History teacher of fiery Irish origins and who came back bruised and battered after a weekend playing his beloved sports rugby [envision this towering 6 feet and some inches guy with gashes and scratches on his manly arms, bruised eye teaching a class, he always scared me shitless]. He ignited a fire for history that still to this day burns very clearly and brightly.
Passion is infectious and once it gets a hold of you, it’s like a lifelong disease or to be more romantic it is like a lifelong loving partner. It was refreshing to see how much it was affecting the museum-goers as they watched Evan and Anna almost bounce off the walls with a child-like awe and enthusiasm.
I arrived home Friday night not exhausted but revitalized, I felt very hopeful for the future generation and hopeful for myself. Maybe it isn’t the end of museums, maybe a new wave will bring in a new generation of curious eyes. As long as storytelling and passion come together (and we keep chanting the mantra that “nerds and geeks are cool”) the desire for education even in the most infertile soils can still grow strong.
Thank you Museum Hack and lovely Evan and Anna, for making this possible.