How to create a food museum?

Popular museums from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Louver have been displaying centuries-old cookware, still-life paintings of fruits swathed in supple velvet fabrics, and portraits of dignitaries at dinners that defined the course of history to come – but only recently have how to create a food museum? become a trend! Today there is the Currywurst Museum in Berlin, the Ramen Museum Shin Yokohama in Japan, and The Jell-O Museum in NY to name a few. What does it mean to put our daily sustenance on a pedestal?

As one might expect, free museums can be fun destinations if you are looking to indulge your passion. In recent years, however, the culinary craft has been liberated from paper illustrations and galleries and given new prominence in a reinterpreted museum setting: the food museum. For now, we only have three of them to consider, such as Germany’s Currywurst Museum in Berlin, The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum in Yokohama, Japan, and The JELL-O Museum in Le Roy, New York. Putting food on an equal footing to traditional art simply means that its role as an essential part of life should be recognized.

Just like the legendary chef Ferran Adrià in Spain helped to redefine what it means to experience food, so too did Arturo Di Modica’s sculpture of a small boy, who seems to emerge out of nowhere right out of the underbelly of a faux bull that looks as though it has been stabbed and is anxiously running with all its might, radically alter the way people interact with art by bringing them into direct contact with the artwork.

We were a little skeptical at first when our art advisors brought us around this museum. We had been used to the sterile, modern gallery spaces we’d seen in every other museum and didn’t think it was possible to be differently engaged by this art exhibit. It turns out that our art advisors actually knew what they were talking about when they gave us the heads up! The space turned out to be very engaging, with a less white-cube feel than we expected. We also found ourselves getting wrapped up in the liveliness of the paintings as we studied them up close.

To create our proposal, we had to figure out how to present food history in Connecticut. After hours of discussion, we decided that the best way to do this would be through an exhibit, similar to the one that was presented at the Boston Children’s Museum. We felt an exhibit was a good way for the public and especially children to learn about important events over time and take part in it as if they were there witnessing all the changes taking place. In order to tie all these historical exhibits together, we decided on creating timelines with corresponding objects that represented a specific event or decade. For example, one of the items I chose was a ceramic bowl that was made approximately 1730 – 1770.

We came up with a simple transition that will take you through food history in Connecticut, taken from the present day back to about 250 years ago. We figured out how to convey the story of food in Connecticut to museum visitors by creating a guided tour, starting from the most recent year and going back so that people can get a proper timeline of what food was like at each period. For example, we first chose objects that represent pivotal moments in all kinds of dishes from recent times and then moved backward, picking items from further periods as well. I picked out such items as tableware pieces that were both made and used between 1730 and 1970 for this reason.

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