Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#hockeysaurus and Other Sports/Museum Mashups

As I write this, I'm also watching Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, in which my Boston Bruins are facing up against the Chicago Blackhawks. I'm not a huge major sports fan, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be hockey.

eta: Figures this is posted the morning after a fairly heartbreaking loss last night. Ugh.

One of the best things about this Stanley Cup run has been the rivalry between Boston and Chicago's museums. Inter-city rivalries are particularly intense at playoff time, and it's always fun when museums join in.    Art museums have placed Superbowl bets for a few years running now, with the losing city's institution loaning a painting to the winning city.

This sort of showmanship is new to the Stanley Cup, though the Cup is the oldest of the professional sports trophies (this year it celebrates its 120th birthday).

The Chicago Institute of Art started it, posting a picture of Grant Wood's American Gothic farmers wearing Blackhawk helmets, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art responded with a neat bit of marketing, giving its samurai mascot from its current exhibition a Bruins mask.

Game 2 saw Chicago decorating a Monet and Boston responding with a postcard from its collection: "Mr. Bruin anticipates an easy victory" a hilariously appropriate image and sentiment. Game 3 saw the MFA knocking it absolutely out of the park - to mix a sports metaphor - with this tweak of The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, one of their most famous paintings. The updated painting received thousands of likes and hundreds of comments, some of which were negative. Complaints ranged from charges that the MFA had "ruined" the painting and others questioned their donations to the MFA. One particularly cranky commenter wrote "This is ridiculous. This is my favorite painting, way to insult a genius artist. Is this what my donations and membership goes too? I think Boston has enough sports outlets, leave my art alone..... Bad idea MFA." The MFA clearly wasn't deterred, as it posted a tribute to Tuuka Rask, the Bruins goalie, in this manipulation of Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington.

Meanwhile, across town and on another social media outlet, the Boston Museum of Science and Chicago's Field Museum, two of the great science museums in America, have their own rivalry: #hockeysaurus. The Field's Sue the T-Rex and the MOS's Cliff the Triceratops are bantering, bragging...and possibly flirting?

Sue started it:
Cliff took up the challenge immediately, and the two have been tweeting nearly nonstop for several days now. There are too many to list all together, but here are a few of the best.

What does this all mean? Are the MFA's commenters right, and this sort of ribbing is a frivolous use of museum resources? Or does the wild popularity of these efforts prove that they're worthwhile? Are people learning anything by following the banter between the museums? Should museums be above inter-city rivalry - by making themselves more a part of their local community, are these museums making themselves less national?

In my opinion, jokes like these are exactly what will keep museums relevant and vibrant. Boston and Chicago fans will feel like their museums are on their side; they will each feel that the other city's museums have a sense of humor and understand something they love - sports.

What do you think?

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