Added on Medium, July 10, 2017
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German Medieval Shield
In my previous posts, I have discussed how museums use relevance to engage audiences with subject matter they present. I wondered what if you did not work for a specific museum but rather a tour company. What would a tour be like with someone outside of the museum? How will they create ways to engage audiences with the subject matter? On Friday, I participated in one of Museum Hack’s evening tours that took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to find out.
Friday’s tour was the Game of Thrones theme tour called Metropolitan Museum of Art: Game of Thrones Mini-Tour. For those who do not know, Game of Thrones is an HBO series which is an adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, and Game of Thrones is the first book in the series. I chose the Game of Thrones Mini Tour because I thought it was not a tour that I would expect to find in other places I have visited. Plus, I was interested in seeing how they would tie the show with the pieces displayed at the Met. I also enjoy watching Game of Thrones so I thought it would be a great way to refresh my memory about the series before the new season airs.
There may be minor spoilers of the Game of Thrones series, so be forewarned.
Each of the Game of Thrones tours is adjusted based on the tour guide’s knowledge of a piece in the museum itself, and to connect it someway to the HBO series. The main point of the tour was to show both museum lovers and those who are not fans of attending museums how awesome museums are by sharing how individuals interested in the Game of Thrones series can identify and interact with the museum exhibits.
To get that point across, Museum Hack tour guide, Anna, led activities that the audience participated in throughout the tour. The first example of an activity was introduced during an ice breaker where we were broken up into pairs and came up with our house name, motto, and animal (for instance, my house was House Stragglers, our motto: Pizza is Coming, and our animal was a bear). Throughout the tour, we were encouraged to take pictures of anything in the museum that contains dragons or birds that will later be added for points and whoever has the most points wins a prize; there is an opportunity at the end to take away points from other houses.
Another example of an activity I participated in was verbal jousting. We were given sheets of paper with medieval insults listed in three columns. Then we were separated from our House partners, and were told to choose three insults (one from each column) to use at each other. After shouting these insults at each other, Anna decided the winner by determining whose is the silliest. Not only there were activities related to the HBO series we occasionally participated in during the tour, we were also guided through most of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and stopped at pre-selected artifacts to discuss similarities to Game of Thrones.
The ties made between the collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Game of Thrones were sometimes strong and other times they were reminders of what we have seen during the show.
During the tour, Anna discussed how George R.R. Martin had written the book series using historical events and figures as inspirations for the events and characters in the A Song of Ice and Fire books and were later portrayed in the Game of Thrones HBO series. For instance, she mentioned the civil war, which was the result of Robert Barathean’s death, to earn the right for the throne of the Seven Kingdoms, known as the Iron Throne, was inspired by the War of the Roses which was a civil war fought to claim the throne of England. She draws connections at each stopping point by talking about what had happen to the characters in the show and what similarities are found in individuals from the past.
For instance, she talked about Robert Barathean and Henry VIII of England by briefly talking about the Game of Thrones character then talked about the 16th century king of England. Both men were kings who enjoyed sports especially jousting. Robert Barathean was the king of the Seven Kingdoms who took over the throne after defeating the previous king of the Seven Kingdoms, Aerys II Targaryen, during a battle known as Robert’s Rebellion. Anna then talked about Henry VIII by talking about his two armors we stopped in front of; Henry VIII was an athletic young king, and during one of his jousting games a horse landed on top of him. He survived but because of the injuries he had as a result, he was no longer able to participate in jousting and began eating an over 5,000 calorie diet that led him to a being fitted for a larger armor with an adjustable chest plate.
Henry VIII’s armor, before jousting accident
Henry VIII’s armor, after jousting accident
Anna also mentioned during the tour that both Tyrion Lannister and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec could have been friends if they lived in the same world and time. Tyrion Lannister was a dwarf who was a member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the Westeros kingdom; he used his family’s status alleviate the prejudice he received throughout his life from his family and others. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a French painter, known for his paining At the Moulin Rouge (1892–1895), who immersed himself in the colorful and theatrical life of Paris during the late 19th century. As a boy, he suffered from fractures that were later attributed to an unknown genetic disorder which prevented his legs from growing; Toulouse-Lautrec developed an adult-size torso and retained his child-sized legs. Both Tyrion and Henri soothed themselves with wine and prostitution.
The tour included items in the museum’s collections that did not fit into the equivalent of the Westeros culture but nevertheless reminded Anna of one of the character’s helmets worn during the show. Anna took us through the display of Japanese armors to show us decorative helmets that took on various shapes and animals including a rabbit. She introduced the helmets by talking about the Game of Thrones character known as The Mountain. Gregor Clegane, known as The Mountain because of his height at eight feet tall, is a knight who led Tywin Lannister’s (Tyrion’s father) army, and known for his brutality from his numerous war crimes as well as rape and murder of the Targaryen royal family at the end of Robert’s Rebellion.
During the show, he has been shown to be wearing variously shaped helmets which helped create the connection to the Japanese armor helmets. I also connected these helmets to the helmets and armor I talked about when I gave tours of the Butler-McCook House in Hartford; the McCook collected various artifacts during their world trips including Japanese Samurai armor and helmets displayed in the library. These helmets drew many different reminders that help audiences including myself make connections to.
Japanese armor helmets
Overall, I enjoyed the tour very much because it includes activities to help audiences think about the show and keep them actively participating in the tour. I also enjoyed the tour because the connections made to the Game of Thrones show not only captured my interest but made me think about the museum’s collections a little differently than I previously had when I visited the Metropolitan in the past. This tour did refresh my memory about what I have seen on the show so far, and not only did I leave the museum feeling I had an entertaining evening but I also wanted to learn more about the artifacts presented in the tour. If interested in learning more about Museum Hack tours or want to participate in similar tours, find out here: https://museumhack.com/tickets/.
Have you participated in a Museum Hack tour? If you have, what do you think about your experience participating in their tour? If you have not, have you had similar experiences of making connections like the ones I discussed during the Game of Thrones Mini-Tour?