Giving Life to the Art That You Walk Past

If you're new to my blog you might not know that I collect things. I collect insects, old radios, random trinkets - pretty much anything you can find at an antique shop. The thing I love about museums? They are beautiful ways to publicly display various kinds of collections.

I was recently able to attend a Museum Hack tour at the Art Institute in Chicago. Museum Hack does tours throughout the nation, and I was able to experience one at one of my favorite museums in Chicago. They call their tour the "Un-Highlights" tour, and in a nutshell, that's exactly what it is. There's the classic pieces of art that masses of museum guests crowd around, not really sure what they are looking at. The Art Institute gives out brochures on the top ten pieces of art to see in their building, and why they are notable. But the pieces on the Museum Hack tour? The guides showcase their favorite pieces and have stories to tell that go with them. They give life to the art that most people walk past.

While our tour guide, Colin, thought this ceramic tea pot looked like comedian Jeff Foxworthy, I on the other hand felt that this tea pot was more reminisce of the comedian Chris Fleming. Especially because on the back side of the tea pot was another figure - a woman! Chris Fleming cracks me up with his female character, Gayle. If our guide had not pointed out that the figurine was double-sided, I would have walked past, none the wiser. 

So much of Chicago's history is rooted in the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. While I knew that George Washington Gale Ferris invented the Ferris Wheel for the Chicago World's Fair to out-do Paris' Eiffel Tower, I did not know that he teamed up with George Pullman - the creator of the more luxurious train car with plush seating and actual restrooms on board. It was Pullman's train cars that were each capsule on Ferris' wheel! At the Art Institute, there is a room of miniatures, and one such tiny diorama that you can gaze into feels like you are inside a Pullman car back in 1893.

When friends and family come to visit me, at my museum, I estimate that we'll spend two hours together, wondering my favorite exhibitions, and I give my own sort of un-highlights tour. Our Museum Hack guide, Colin, paused halfway through our visit to check-in about museum fatigue. Were we tired? Were we glazing over? The tour itself was high energy and engaging, but of course, it's tiring soaking up all of the stories and the history. If it wasn't for our interactive Museum Hack guides, we would have definitely felt the fatigue. 

While most museums have highlights tours, there is something to be said for the un-highlights tour. Whether you're a tourist or a Chicago native, Museum Hack's tour allowed me to to experience a museum that I have visited many times before in a new way.  Walking through the galleries with an art history major as your guide versus walking through the galleries with ice breakers, scavenger hunts, and photo opportunities kept the museum feeling alive with every unusual piece of art that we walked past. 


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