I think a really great way to understand how the general public views museums as nation-building tools is to look at how fake museums are used in theme parks.
The clearest example to me is the Yeti Museum built into the queue of Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom, where the museum offers 'evidence' that primes you to be scared of the Yeti you're about to encounter. (Photos: & )
#EPCOT is based on the old World's Fair model, so nearly every pavilion has a mini-museum. In Future World, little science centers help you explore concepts like communication with games and interactives. Living with the Land is a ride-through agriculture exhibit.
Future World sells you the idea that corporations and innovation are solving all of humanity's problems, and World Showcase celebrates the cultures those corporations are saving by packaging countries' food, history, art for consumption.
EPCOT is visited by >12 million annually. Pre-pandemic, WS pavilions were staffed by people from each country. Most of the pavilions have a gallery with a history and/or art exhibit, often without an explicit connection to Disney itself.
Morocco has an exhibit about desert racing and Berber culture:
People quip that it's "just like visiting x country" to go to Epcot because we have learned that experiencing a culture = learning some history, eating a snack, shopping for knickknacks, talking to a local. People understand culture as something that can be put in exhibit cases.
*EPCOT sorry even my little nerd heart hasn't readjusted to the capitalization convention reversion!!!!!
OKAY SO LET'S TALK ABOUT DOLLYWOOD.
Where Disney parks are telling stories about people and corporations in general, Dollywood is affirming some pretty specific myths about one person: the inimitable Dolly Parton.
(Here I would be remiss not to link to @tressiemcphd's essay on DP's cultural moment which got me thinking about Dollywood this morning and started this thread: )
Dollywood -- built near where DP grew up -- includes a reproduction of the log cabin she was raised in. Right in the middle of the theme park. Note the moment at the beginning when the kid says, "we're at the..... museum?" It's confusing!
You can also visit Dolly's tour bus, and the whole experience is capped off by a truly incredible museum that features tons of Dolly's costumes (on custom built mannequins, of course), her music and performances, and her narrative.
The museum experience starts with a hologram of Dolly telling you she will always love you, which is something I didn't know I needed until it happened.
Shops in Dollywood showcase news articles about the park's economic impact locally. Dollywood also houses an aviary for birds that are cared for and presented in daily shows.
Together, this gives us the story of DP: someone of humble origins who reinvested in her community when she got rich & famous, who cares about nature, who is wildly talented AND well-dressed. Maps onto why she's having a moment. Theme park museums are part of that mythbuilding.
There are GREAT examples of museums as world-building in video games. ACNH is a huge one! https://twitter.com/berincole/status/1364959319129808898
I have not played Bioshock Infinite but the way they use the museum there sounds incredible! https://twitter.com/csawula/status/1364966011330580489
We have so many other examples of museums in pop culture: Indiana Jones, Marvel movies, honestly the flair-covered restaurants of the 90s????, airports. Museums are everywhere and people know what they're supposed to take away from them even if they aren't regular museumgoers.
Twitter isn't a great place to explore this because there is just! so! much! to say but give a shout if you have a favorite non-museum museum!
Thinking about this aspect of museums' place in the public imagination helps us understand why building transparency into museum practice is absolutely VITAL. We have to break down our weaknesses and how we work through them, because many people don't realize they're there.
The use of 'archaeological sites' could be a whole conversation on its own! There's a lot to be unpacked about Orientalism and Othering when using archaeology to create an air of mystery. https://twitter.com/AllisonPortnow/status/1364973316772143116
.@AllisonPortnow reminded me that the Revenge of the Mummy attraction at Universal is set within a museum + archaeological site + movie set??? Talk about a lot going on, all of it in shorthand...
@AllisonPortnow Museum people are still out here thinking museums are so pure and meanwhile theme park and movie designers are like, "you know how we should tell these people that they should just believe whatever we tell them?"
@AllisonPortnow THIS! We could learn so much. https://twitter.com/TaylorStoermer/status/1364978570750214146
Love these examples!! https://twitter.com/MichelleNMoon/status/1364983801630359554
Almost seems like having a position in a formal museum can be a virtue signal and having your own museum-y display space might be sinister signal? Thinking more about this! https://twitter.com/SarahCole813/status/1364989535319449606
@heyshaelyn Oh that's interesting. I wonder how many supervillains vs superheroes have collections/archives?
@SarahCole813 I need a spreadsheet!!
The museum environment in Dr. Strange also comes to mind...
I think because themed environments are linked to "edutainment" which is a dirty word for museum people, we discount those complex layers of meaning making from built environments outside specific contexts. https://twitter.com/MichelleNMoon/status/1364991042328686594
@heyshaelyn I think of the sort of stuff you're raising when we constrict ourselves via our own rules. Like we think "people won't understand" complex/layered/imaginative interpretation, but they are totally used to speculative fictions & alternate timeline narratives from the rest of life
@heyshaelyn @AllisonPortnow And short handing it - "Look stuff on pedestals = museum" (Just rewatched Ragnarok and thinking of the collection in Asgard). Or Wandavision (spoilers) and the basement! I would love to also dig into the "sinister" collection motif in movies.
@SarahCole813 @AllisonPortnow Oooh, that's an awesome wrinkle to discuss!! I love that angle, gotta do some thinking about that.
@heyshaelyn @AllisonPortnow My interest is not how the field views these things as "museums" but our understanding of how audiences relate to them and how we can use that engagement to inform effective practice. Thoughts on this #JHUPublicHistory, from the always thoughtful @heyshaelyn?
@TaylorStoermer @AllisonPortnow Totally with you. I was writing to the field here but I think the audience side is what we really have to consider and incorporate into our practice.
@heyshaelyn @AllisonPortnow That's what my class is getting into, a consumer-centered consideration of public history, divorced from the rabbit holes that producers get stuck in. Going to where they are, wherever they are, and understanding their perspective, is sort of our Spring 21 motto.
@TaylorStoermer @AllisonPortnow This sounds incredible and I look forward to anything you might be able to share from this work!
@heyshaelyn @AllisonPortnow I'll send you everything I have. Needless to say, it wasn't successful. We had to resort to arguing CW was preserving a vanishing way of life -- Tidewater plantation culture -- because we didn't qualify under architectural significance. Not a winner.
@heyshaelyn @AllisonPortnow The Yeti Museum immersion is a real object lesson, though. It inserts guests into a story, making the experience more authentic -- and therefore real enough -- even if mythic. We should be so lucky to create nonfiction experiences that generate such impact.
@heyshaelyn @AllisonPortnow I know this is esoteric, but all of these are very real to audiences, even if they are somehow "fake" to museum pros. All of the main building exhibitions at CW are fanciful, barely informed, reconstructions, not much different from the Stave Church at EPCOT's Norway pavilion.
@TaylorStoermer @AllisonPortnow 💯💯💯!!! Whew, my org currently having some conversations about how to put Colonial Revivalism into context for visitors.
@heyshaelyn @AllisonPortnow That's a conversation worth having. I got so bogged down when I was writing the UNESCO justification for CW and discovered how little was "real" to the 18th Century. It's most salient history is in the revival structures.
@TaylorStoermer @AllisonPortnow One of our properties was lived in by a preservation architect who helped found our org and acquired and "restored" several of our current HHMs. We are hoping to be able to host conversations around hist pres and its impacts as part of that property's interp!
@heyshaelyn @AllisonPortnow Dear Lord. Save us from the Norman Ishams of this world.
@TaylorStoermer @AllisonPortnow Hartford's own!! ;)
@heyshaelyn Some other examples: the installation Second Story did for the World of Coca-Cola, totally set up as a museum through which you are searching for the secret formula. Also, retro attractions like Dinosaurland in VA.
@heyshaelyn I *know* there must be examples in Busch Gardens Williamsburg, but I can't think of any rn. There are a couple "archeological sites" (while you wait for Loch Ness Monster and Escape from Pompei), but the artifacts aren't placed in their implied museum resting places.
@heyshaelyn When I pull a group together to talk about design, we do walks of retail, hotel, destination dining, casino, cruise, etc. The way things are "merched" in great retail shops? Let that guide how you put up display cases.
@SarahCole813 Yes! Department stores and museums are linked in history, and we shouldn't discount that!
@heyshaelyn more island- and community-building than nation-building, but I also think of the museum in Animal Crossing: New Horizons
@berincole this is SUCH A GOOD EXAMPLE
@heyshaelyn The museum in Bioshock Infinite of an excellent example of this.
@csawula @heyshaelyn This is such a great observation and should be a fantastic blog post with pics. Or a dissertation. Geez would it be interesting to do some visitor study in these places.
@MichelleNMoon @csawula RIGHT?! I did my MA thesis on history in MK and would LOVE to expand to Epcot -- the difference between American ideas of progress in 1971 vs 1982 are so huge, I think it is written all over the built landscape!
@heyshaelyn @MichelleNMoon @csawula When are you going to publish this? I’d love to read it.
@csawula oh shit! this looks cool as hell!
@heyshaelyn There's similar examples in other games, but that one always sticks out to me as (a) looking like a theme park museum, and (b) doing a lot of heavy lifting to explain how the game's setting developed its ideology and identity.
@heyshaelyn Oooooh say more please
@SarahCole813 @heyshaelyn I am LOVING this thread. So many thoughts. Museums ARE everywhere. I'm working on an IG project about this but haven't had much time to devote to it. Public museology and vernacular museology - they are things.
@SarahCole813 @heyshaelyn w/r/t restaurant flair, this is a piece in @collectorswkly I really liked. Had no idea how studied/calculated it was.
@SarahCole813 @heyshaelyn @collectorswkly And finally, f* the dissertation idea. I'm feeling this as a podcast! How fun would that be? You could take us along on vicarious walk-thrus of vernacular/commercial/pop-cultural museum spaces.
@MichelleNMoon @heyshaelyn @collectorswkly I love the podcast idea! I used the Yeti museum in the museum studies classes I taught to talk about this exact point as well as the lesson of "look past your own nose" for inspiration and education. @MichelleNMoon I love that you brought in themed dining!
@heyshaelyn @threadreaderapp unroll
@MichelleNMoon Hi! the unroll you asked for: I think a really great way to understand how the general public views museums as nation-building tools is to look at… Enjoy :) 🤖
@heyshaelyn Great thread! PS If you are interested in how the fake museums are used on-screen as affective landscapes I may know an edited book project that would love a chapter draft on this.