"Museum" of Ice Cream...?

Inside, visitors will be treated to a whimsical array of interactive (and perfectly Instagram-ready) installations, including a candy garden, a Pop Rocks cave, a push-pop art installation, a cherry-on-top sky, and a mochi ice cream tasting room, courtesy of Los Angeles-based My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream. A rotating lineup of California ice creameries, including Salt & Straw, It’s It, and Bi-Rite, will be on hand to offer visitors a special “scoop of the week.”


I’ve seen it all over Instagram, my friends and family in NYC have all gone, and I sit here in Chicago grappling with one dire question – is the ‘Museum’ of Ice Cream really a museum? 

If you haven’t yet seen boomerangs of young people jumping into sprinkles, nose-selfies sniffing willy-wonka-esque scratch & sniff wallpaper, or people jumping on a trampoline for the perfect mid-air photo, trust me you soon will.

This attraction is calling itself the ‘Museum of Ice Cream‘ and is a humourous, interactive tribute to the country’s most beloved dessert. It has a mission statement on its website, which describes its purpose to “bring people together and provoke imagination.”

OK, so that sounds like a museum and they do have a collection of exhibits circulating around a theme…but part of me still doesn’t buy it. Where is the story? Where is the research? Where are the artifacts or art? What is this organization preserving? What is the purpose, other than to bring out your inner-child and dive into an afternoon of frivolity?

A comparable institution to this is the City Museum in St. Louis if you are familiar; basically it is a giant jungle-gym for kids and adults built by artist Bob Cassilly from found objects and old architectural pieces. Am I being an uppity museum-snob in thinking that this is a more legitimate museum? Because it is created by a respected artist, and not based on a fad like desserts and selfies, does that deem it worthy of the title ‘museum’? They both have similar missions, end-goals, and interactive experiences, so why do I accept this as a museum but struggle with the MoIC?

The MoIC represents a greater trend in cultural attractions worldwide. The founders of the MoIC are able to charge $38 for a ticket and have it sell out, for visitors to simply wander around a brightly colored space filled with giant candies and grab as many IG-worthy pictures as possible. The reason this works, is because young people are far more likely now than in past to spend a dollar on a worthy experience. An experience that induces FOMO, is a limited time opportunity, and markets itself as unique and different. An experience that induces all these same things is the Color Factory though they do not market themselves as a ‘museum’. In my opinion, they have captured what their institution truly is: a place to interactively engage in colorful, frivolous joy; to celebrate color and ‘create’ in a communal space. 

Whether you think the MoIC is truly a ‘museum’ or not, I think there is something valuable that more traditional museums can learn from these pop-up experiences: Young people will spend their money if there is something that relates to their desire to play and immerse themselves in something unique. And no, it can’t hurt to create a selfie-space so your visitors can help you create FOMO inducing experiences!

So what do you think? Is it a ‘museum’, or something else entirely? Does it matter either way?

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