New York Times Feature On Museum Hack

Last updated: January 18, 2023

My company Museum Hack was featured in The New York Times!

It is a great article that gives an overview of renegade tour groups. We are attracting new audiences and making museums more fun.

Group of people having fun at the Met Museum in front of Washington Crossing the Delaware painting
A Museum Hack tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For the record, it is STILL my favorite museum in the world

Museum Tours for People Who Don’t Like Museum Tours

By Elaine Glusac, July 20, 2018

On a recent Monday afternoon, Sarah Dunnavant, a 27-year-old actress and guide with the tour company Museum Hack, gathered her group of eight at the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago, promising to reveal the “salacious, sexy and scary” parts of the museum in an animated two-hour “un-highlights” trip through the museum.

Private museum tour guide in Chicago talks to guests
Sarah leading a small private museum tour at the Art Institute of Chicago

She led the way to American folk art whirligigs, a fake Caravaggio and the arsenic-laced green paint favored by Vincent van Gogh. She passed out candy to keep spirits from flagging, discussed Beyonce’s references in video and photography to the Yoruba goddess Osun in the African gallery, and photographed the group posing as the characters in Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” in front of the pointillist masterpiece.

painting with people looking at a lake
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat. It is his best-known and largest painting! Probably one of the most famous at the Art Institute in Chicago.

“If you were expecting to stroke your chin and consider the brush strokes of the great masters,” she said, stroking her chin, and breaking out into laughter, “this is not that tour.”

Private tour guide at a museum in Chicago leading a small group
You can expect lots of LOLs and the Greatest Hits on any Museum Hack tour

This tour, like a spate of others that are newly redefining museum-going, aims to reinvigorate a tourism staple: the must-see museum. Museum Hack’s approach is to use humor, pop cultural references and games to make the trip more fun and less dutiful.

“We’re obsessed with attracting a whole new audience,” said Nick Gray, who founded Museum Hack in 2013.

“Museums aren’t competing with other museums,” he added. “They’re competing with Netflix, Facebook and iPhones.”

Continue reading the article on The New York Times site:

Museum Tours for People Who Don’t Like Museum Tours

We get a lot more great quotes and mentions in the article.

Article Highlights

  • New groups who are “redefining museum-going”
  • I love this phrase: “Museum Hack’s approach is to use humor, pop cultural references and games to make the trip more fun and less dutiful.” YES EXACTLY
  • There are benefits to third-party tour companies like Museum Hack. We “bring more external filters, from the comedic to the academic.”

Example Museums, Companies

  • The author gives examples of museums that are doing innovative things. She mentions The Neon Museum, The Toledo Museum of Art, and The Dali Museum.
  • Also drag queen tours at the Ringling Museum of Art. And the Spirit Tour at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights
  • Other companies mentioned are Take Walks, Context Travel, and Shady Ladies.

Favorite Quotes

  • “We hire first for storytelling ability and prioritize that above art history knowledge or expertise,” said Mr. Gray, who calls the Met his “third space” and aims to make infrequent museum visitors comfortable in places they might find intimidating.
  • “We think that audiences have to be entertained before they can be educated,” he added. (h/t Tony Robbins)

With special thanks to Ally and the Marketing team at Museum Hack. Plus Elaine the great writer, Sarah the excellent tour guide, and our entire Museum Hack family that helps make museums more awesome.

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