America’s funky small town museums used to draw yawns, or “are you kidding” remarks from thrill seekers wanting their kicks; while today’s “Mysteries at the Museum” live action reality series has somehow turned usual museum mediocrity into late night entertainment on the Travel Channel. For instance, the Sept. 13 back-to-back episodes – beginning at 10/9c – features laid-back host Don Wildman as he travels to Boston for the “Great Molasses Flood,” that’s been dubbed “one of the nation’s weirdest industrial disasters; while Wildman also inspects the wax likeness of airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper and “Buddy Holly’s curse.” Also, in a second episode that airs tonight, Wildman checks out the infamous “French Connection” drug syndicate and more shipwrecked gold.
As for how the heck did this reality show make it to the Travel Channel – when this live action museum reality show first aired back in 2010 – experts at the Smithsonian point to the ongoing goal of museum curators to promote museums, both large and small, as “happening places” that attract both young and old.
Thus, the driver behind “Mysteries at the Museum” - say both fans and museum experts - is to present equal parts strange and real, and then let the viewer decide.
America’s museums mostly haunted with strange stuff
At the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History – the largest of its kind in the U.S. – points to the first marketing of museum’s as fun or scary places with images from the 1933 classic mystery and horror film “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” starring King Kong’s Fay Wray. The Smithsonian museum exhibit about the film states “it’s notable because prior to this movie, most Americans viewed museums as interesting as a washing machine manual.”
Also, the exhibit notes how visitors to many of America’s older and more obscure museums – such as those featured each week on “Mysteries at the Museum” – contain “mostly haunted and very strange things that seem to produce that thick swallow in the throats of visitors who then turn away” after viewing things that one would expect in a chamber of horrors.
However, museums’ can get away with exhibiting such unusual things, explains Mysteries at the Museum host Don Wildman “because they’re part of our history now.”
In addition, the 1933 classic film Mystery of the Wax Museum may also remind fans of today’s Travel Channel “Mysteries at the Museum” because it used the same sorts of museum subjects that seem to titillate viewers today.
For instance, Fay Wray plays Charlotte Duncan whose finance works at a newly opened museum that features wax figures that resembles both her as Joan of Arc and recently deal models in “Mystery of the Wax Museum.”
In turn, the veteran reality TV show host Don Wildman – who previously hosted “Off Limits” on the Travel Channel – seems at first nervous when examining old artifacts at local museums around the country, but then seems suddenly aware that this viewing of what he calls “American history” is, in fact, very scary stuff that do doubt gives viewers at home that characteristic sideways squint.
Recent Mysteries at the Museum episodes look at death
While the marketing promo for “Mysteries at the Museum” states there “are tales of scandal, mystery, murder and intrigue behind many American museum artifacts,” this is after-all a museum where the gray of unrest and discontent have been preserved for decades until Wildman and his camera crew unearthed the “strangest of the strange” for your viewing pleasure.
For instance, the recent new episode of Mysteries at the Museum – that aired on Sept. 11 and looked at a “death cast,” was very gruesome and thus contributed to the show’s mojo to take “a shocking tour of America’s past,” by revisiting its most crucial events by asking so-called experts for the coolest details that most museums won’t dare to print or reveal or risk being assaulted by a sense of humiliation that the museum is sensationalizing something now linked to the dead.
Thus, Mysteries at the Museum works best when it features those museums that are haunted by the suspicion that someone died and was not so happy about how they went out; or any real feeling of disorientation that Wildman can muster in the show’s interviews with experts who are often gnawed with anxiety about the stuff on display in their museum.
Look for “Mysteries at the Museum” on the Travel Channel each Tuesday and Thursday evening for more episodes that’s aimed at revealing a strange, nervous unease about America’s colorful history.
Image source of the now famous museum poster for the 1933 cult classic film “Mystery of the Wax Museum” - that the Smithsonian states in its Museum of American History – made going to the museum fun and interesting again. Thus, this film and others like it helped launch what is today a Travel Channel live action reality TV show simply called “Mysteries at the Museum.” Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystery_of_the_Wax_Museum