Tuesday, 17 November 2015

THE INNOVATIVE FOOD MUSEUM

MUSEUM INNOVATIONS

BY: JENNY FORD

Food in museums has become all the rage. Just look at Fort York’s historic cooking classes or the ROM’s showcase of Italian food in honour of its Pompeii exhibition. But these are often one-off programs that are staff heavy and make lots of dirty dishes.

So, how do food museums do it? More so, how do food museums capture the intangible experience of enjoying and experiencing food in a museum world that doesn’t usually involve tasting the exhibits?

Willy Wonka saying "Try some more, the strawberries taste like strawberries! The snozberries taste like snozberries!"
Not quite sure we're at this point yet. Source.

Many food museums follow the traditional artifact and panel set-up that dominates non-food museums. Highlights at The SPAM Museum in St. Austin, Minn, for instance,  include a giant SPAM distribution map, and a SPAM game show quiz. Nothing too exciting or out of the ordinary.

FOOD REVOLUTION

So, what does food museum innovation look like? Enter the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in Brooklyn, which opened its doors after much fundraising in late October. The museum’s inaugural exhibition, Flavor: Making it or Faking it, has interactive smell exhibits with scent stations and pellet machines that allow you to taste food without creating a mess.

Smell exhibit on the left, pellet machine on the right at MOFAD. Source.

There are a few other innovative exhibit techniques food museums are trying out. Take the Ramen Museum in Yokohama, Japan. It features a replica of a 1958 Tokyo street, the year instant noodles were invented. Here, you can purchase different types of ramen from nine different stalls.

City street at the Ramen Museum in Japan.
The streets of the Ramen Musem. Source.

There’s also the Currywurst Museum in Berlin, celebrating the local snack of sausage topped with curry sauce. The museum includes smell stations, like MOFAD, an interactive currywurst making game, and an experimental kitchen. Each ticket also comes with a currywurst in a cup. Also, did I mention they have a giant sausage couch?

 German video advertising the Currywurst Museum in Berlin. Source.

INTEGRATING WHAT YOU EAT

But these nifty food experiences don’t have to be confined to specialized museums. As fellow Musings contributor, Leah Moncada, has shown over and over again in her column, Historic Kitchen, food is an integrated part of culture.

Should food exhibits, like the ones described, make more of an appearance in more 'mainstream' museums? Should food be in our collections and in our galleries? There’s also the amazing accessibility benefits of incorporating more smells and tastes.

CAN WE TASTE OUR WAY THROUGH OTHER MUSEUM EXHIBITS?

3 comments:

  1. I worked at Billings Estate in Ottawa over the summer and we had children's programs that involved baking and learning about the estate and who lived there. The kids seemed to really enjoy it! And it didn't hurt that they got to eat the treats they made...

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  2. *Should* museums incorporate taste and smell into exhibits? With the greater recognition of involving more of the senses in museum exhibits to create more relatable and immersive learning experiences, I think Museums should definitely TRY. Will it be difficult? At times. But I can't wait to make it happen!

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  3. Also, love the post, love the topic, and thanks for the shout-out! :)

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