Wednesday, 4 June 2014



This week, my post is reviewing not an exhibition, but rather a YouTube channel. A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across this video:

I thought the concept was so great, and everyone had such cool ideas about what a museum is (I could go on and on about that… maybe next week..) But I wanted to know more about The Brain Scoop and Emily Graslie.

According to their blog Emily Graslie is the host of the Brain Scoop, originally filmed while she was volunteering at the University of Montana Zoological Museum (UMZM). In 2013 she accepted a job at the Field Museum in Chicago as their first ever Chief Curiosity Correspondent (WHAT?! Coolest job ever? Probably. Emily… if you ever read this, do you need an assistant?!)

I think what I like about this vlog series is that it’s accessible to a range of audiences, it takes visitors behind the scenes of the Field Museum and the UMZM (watch the Spirit Collection episode below if you thought the basement of Fischer Library was bad…), answers questions posed directly from watchers, and it’s funny. Emily is obviously very knowledgeable in her field(s), but brings a great personality, which makes me want to keep watching.

The “Behind the Scenes” aspect of the museum world is gaining more and more popularity. It was only a few weeks ago that the ROM opened up it’s back of house to the general public for their 100th anniversary. Visitors like to see what’s “off limits,” and this vlog does it in a very controlled, yet entertaining way.

The Field Museum’s mission is to inspire “curiosity about life on Earth while exploring how the world came to be and how we make it a better place” (actually – go to their website  and check out the sweet video they made for their mission page… apparently they're really into digital media). As a result, some of the videos include some pretty explicit content about how they prepare some of the taxidermied animals on display, and other projects they undertake in their labs. If you’re not squeamish check out this video:

(had enough videos yet??)

I think by not censoring their process, and being very direct, it gives an air of authority and encourages frank discussion.  Many natural history museums have real animal specimen, all of which had to die in order to be on display. The Brain Scoop says “lets have a discussion about it. We’ll show you what we do, and how we do it. You tell us what you think.” From an educational stand-point, I think it’s great.

Lastly, I think this series gives a punch of personality to the museum world. For years, museum have been moving away from the stiff, dusty, institutions of the Victorian era. Constantly rebranding themselves as fun, energetic, immersive places of education. Personally, I think this is one of the better museum vlog series I’ve seen – but I’m sure there are tons out there! What can you recommend? Do you think this is an effective way to engage your audience?


  1. I find the first video where people are asked "what is a museum" very interesting. The word "place" was used to describe "museum" 8 times in the first 60 seconds. As my own conception for the term is not rooted in a sense of "place," I am wondering how are other people reacting to the video? Does your conception of a museum adhere to those described in the video?

  2. I agree Robin! I love the varied responses, and the concept of the question as a whole - something so basic we sometimes forget to ask ourselves. I think it's why I was inspired to see what else The Brain Scoop did...
    Personally, I usually attach a certain kind of physical space to my notion of "museum." I'm pretty confident that's because growing up a museum was always a "place" to go. I imagine that as students of museums we all have different definitions of what a museum is, and I know that my definition is ever-expanding as I continue to learn in this field.