Museum Hack: Natural History Museum

Museum Hack - Learn what really should have happened in Finding Nemo according to science
Learn what really should have happened in Finding Nemo according to science

Museum Hack strikes again! Last time we checked out the MET unhighlights tour. Amazing. This time, we moved on over to the American Museum of Natural History. Also amazing.

The AMNH, like the MET, is gigantic. It’s easy to go and get lost in the spectacle without learning much from it. There are countless rooms, halls, floors, displays, and it’s often hard to get too much out of the literature included with each exhibit. These are world class museums and are some of the most visited in the world, but like all museums, there is a lot of room for improvement. A tour like this – and any tour, for that matter – enhances the experience.

Museum Hack - Model of the city of Isfahan with a seldom-noticed magic carpet
Model of the city of Isfahan with a seldom-noticed magic carpet

But, with Museum Hack, you have an advantage. If you hate museums, Museum Hack is your solution because it doesn’t present the conventional information you’d normally hear on a tour. You learn about the coolest, most riveting, sometimes dramatic or risqué aspects of the exhibits. If you love museums and have been to the AMNH one too many times, then Museum hack is also for you because again, it doesn’t cover the information you already know. A lot of time, research, and effort goes into finding and presenting material that is not common knowledge. If you have no feeling about museums, but just want a warm/dry place to spend a couple of hours, interacting with people, and getting your daily exercise in, then Museum Hack is also for you. Throughout the tour, you meet members of your group, play a few interactive games, and walk (quite briskly) from one hall to the next.

Museum Hack - Find fossils to match your mini dinosaur
Find fossils to match your mini dinosaur

A few minutes before the two-hour tour begins, you receive a text message from your tour guide, checking in and making sure you’re able to find the meeting location. This is helpful as these museums are huge and you could waste quite a while walking around aimlessly. This way, you’re in direct contact with your guide and he/she can direct you very easily to the meeting location.

Once you arrive, everyone is given name tags, making for a much more interactive and friendly experience (the guides will call you by name and ask you questions throughout the tour). After a quick intro, you’re off! The tour is very fast paced, so if you’re not particularly into the subject matter of one of the stops, no worries – that part will be over soon and you’ll quickly move on to something that grabs your attention more. Also, the group is given a number of opportunities to actually decide which of several stops they’d like to make. It’s decided through a quick majority voting process. Obviously, this allows for everyone to have a better experience. If the group doesn’t want to learn about aquatic mammals, but is super into dinosaurs, then why waste everyone’s time with a speech on whales?

Museum Hack - Decide which theory about the disappearance of the Olmec people you believe
Decide which theory about the disappearance of the Olmec people you believe

This tour was tag-teamed, meaning we had two tour guides who alternated speaking and also played off of one another and complemented each other well. Having experienced the tour at the MET with just one guide and now the AMNH tour with two, I think both structures work if the guides have the right personality. And Museum Hack guides all do. Museum Hack vets their guides quite stringently and is very selective about who they hire. This means that if someone has passed the test and becomes a guide, you can be sure they are charismatic, sociable, well prepared, and engaging. They have a lot of personality, like to interact with members of the group, and are able to lead effectively.

Also, each Museum Hack tour, regardless of venue, at some point requests that you and the group you came with take a picture with an object or display of your choice. The photo can be as funny/serious/normal/crazy as you and your group would like and then you’re given these pictures afterwards as a souvenir. It makes for a great memento, really!

The hours fly by on the tour, you learn a lot, laugh a lot, engage a lot, and it’s just a nice change of pace from the usual museum experience. Absolutely worth a try. And once you do one, you’ll be hooked and will want to try another tour!

Museum Hack

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