My Night At The Museum With Museum Hack

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Wow! The tours at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art have taken quite a turn.  Welcome to an original take on museum tours compliments of Museum Hack!  This is NOT your Mother’s routine museum route – more like a rogue gallery – but in a good way – promise. They” respectfully” break the rules.

Trash all your preconceived notions of a dry lecture or a dusty escorted walk thru an overwhelmingly endowed museum.  Be prepared for an energetic, interactive…rather an OVERACTIVE approach to great works of art.  Time to shake things up.

“To hack” is defined as” to break up the surface with irregular blows.”  So what does this rather crude action have to do with the standard, learned, erudite tour of a venerable institution – especially one as revered as NYC’s landmark Metropolitan Museum of Art?  “Hack” and “Museum” pronounced in the same breath?

Well, those sassy gals at Museum Hack not only break the surface of a status quo tour, they SHRED IT.  Irregular is an understatement.  They change the energy in the room.  Get outta the way ‘cause they are determined to do it different.  Their philosophy is simple – museums should be far more accessible – works of art tell a tale, a narrative should emerge.  Rather than stand and lecture, they invite you to closely view and actively dissect the details and elements of a work while creating a narrative using everything you know. Engage all five senses, be wild – the loopier, the better! Every picture tells a story. Use today’s jazzy vernacular, keep it real, use every aspect of your own uniqueness to appreciate and understand why a work works!  Art functions on so many levels – aesthetically, culturally – and especially as insight into time and place.  These smart young women get YOU to connect the dots, craftily using every manner and mode possible. The tours are small, affordable, and must be booked in advance. Expect ANYTHING to happen… such as a wine break… love that they do this!  Let’s say MUSEUM HACK is the “Hamilton” of museum tours – seminal, revisionist, entertaining – and breaking the mold. 

I spent a fabulous Friday evening with Museum Hack’s dynamic duo of Michelle and Jen at The MET. We started our theatrical romp with what our guides termed THE most boring piece of art there. Clever girls, such a bold statement is bound to grab your attention.  We were taken to a tapestry in the corner of the medieval wing categorized under the austere term “Northern Decorative Art.”  Yes – I know – GAG.  But before we left this corner we had a totally different angle on this work – a lusty, romantic tale emerged through careful attention to details (HINT: the devil is always in the details).  Thru an irreverent tone and numerous “WTF” moments, a contemporary, fun, plausible narrative was formed.  I knew immediately that some real smart theatrics await – this was no ordinary Friday night at the Museum.

We were told to have our cellphone cameras at the ready as the challenge of the evening would be to pick one work at The MET which would represent our idea of a “party to dawn” item and be prepared to explain our choice.  Then we kicked it up a notch and found ourselves dizzily discussing the jiggy codpieces in the Arms and Armor Wing. Throw “courtly” out the window.  Onto the Islamic Weapons Room – did you even know there was such a place? – Where we discussed these weapons as works of art, not items of mass destruction. Again, kick up your senses as this room was highlighted by a soulful solo vocal performance by a young woman who sang pitch perfect “raga” music for our group, distinctly matching the aura of these artifacts.

By far my favorite challenge during this sensory evening was “Buy – Sell – Burn.”  My group found themselves in the lesser known end of the American Wing where an incredulous inventory of all things Americana is openly stored.  There are endless glass storage cabinets, from floor to ceiling, containing every manner of art – vases, dinnerware, furniture, portraits, glassware, and frames. So many holdings, how could the MET possibly display it all?  Now – we were told to pick an item we would gladly own, thus bid & buy.  Then select an object we would sell for the right price.  And lastly choose an art work we would gleefully burn.  Imagination knows no limits … while our small group giggled and explained their choices, our clever guides were readying our next “anything goes” exploration.

These girls are brilliant, they released our inner selves into active, imaginative participants in a glorious parade of memorable art. Such a level of involvement – we never even noticed the passage of time.  The MET guards were literally chasing us out of the Museum, we were too involved to realize they were closing. I expected fireworks in the night sky upon my exit!  Museum Hack is a game changer, a hands on, hyper kinetic yet contemplative approach to the wonders of our world.  I thank them for a totally different perspective, an amazing, immersive “Night at the Museum.” Check them out.

By: Joanne Theodorou

12 Comments

  • This is such a great comprehensive guide! I’m pinning so everyone can come find this :)

  • Wow, I’m impressed that the venerable MET would allow such shenanigans!

  • Maddy says:

    This is the coolest thing ever! Love the idea of making museums fun again. I’ll be back in NYC in two weeks and would love to do this. I think I’d rather do the VIP night tour over the un-highlights tour, but wouldn’t complain either way! 😉

  • I really love museums but have never managed to do a night time activity at one. Must change that.

  • This looks AMAZING! I’m definitely signing up for a tour next time I’m in New York!

  • Tamara says:

    What a dream! I’m so partial to NYC museums anyway.. childhood memories and field trips and whatnot. That I could see this being a life dream for me.

    • Used York City says:

      Definitely give it a try next time you and Cassidy come into the city, Tamara! Makes for such a fun date night!:-)

  • Rachelle Bijou says:

    Happy to have read and learned about Museum Hack at The Met. But, weren’t you simply exhausted afterwards? Whose idea was this, as it seems like a first? Also, what was the price for the tour and how long was it?

    • Used York City says:

      Hi Rachelle! I’ll let Joanne answer most of these questions, but as for the price and length, you can take an “Un-highlights” tour for $59 which is 2 hours, or the VIP night tour that Joanne went on for $89, which is 3 hours.

    • Joanne Theodorou says:

      Rachelle,
      Yes exhausting but exhilarating. Sort of when you see a great drama, like an O’Neil or Arthur Miller play – you are emotionally wiped but glad for such an authentic experience. From what Michelle told me i.e. one of my guides, they started very small a few years back but with big ideas. Well this group is making it all come true, I sensed that they are still a work in progress – but moving by leaps and bounds.

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