THATMuse

For as long as there has been VR technology, there have been half-excited, half-scaremongering think pieces proclaiming that a new age of tourism has begun. Physical tourism is out, and “virtual tourism” is in. Well, we haven’t quite reached the stage where a vacation mean a trip to the living room. We haven’t given up on visiting museums in favour of touring them with only a VR headset.

But, in this time where we’re all more or less marooned at home, it is useful to know that museums have, apparently, been preparing for the apocalypse all along. From basic functions allowing you to explore museum collections online using their websites to fully-fledged virtual museum tours, there is a way to see all five of our museums online, from the comfort of your own home.

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Ever heard of the terrible 5th century Plague of Athens? Over 2400 years later we’re living though another dreadful health crisis. How did the Greeks handle theirs? And is coronavirus comparable to the many illnesses that have hit the world so far? Historians and art-historians like us love to say that the past always teaches us something. Some stories, like that of the Plague of Athens, are timeless, and we can learn from them even today.

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Looking for a special gift for a special person? Have friends or family going to London or Paris at Easter, this summer or who may live there? Why not offer up a museum treasure hunt, making explorers of them for some maverick museum fun!

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By Halle Trang

It might come as no surprise to you that museums are very popular locations to film in. Some of the greatest museum halls in London and Paris act as great backdrops for action scenes, and the actual art pieces provide amazing visual appeal in music videos. We scoured the internet to find movie clips and music videos that were filmed in the very museums we host treasure hunts in. Keep reading below to find out which movies were filmed in the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, British Museum, Natural History Museum, and the V&A!

JEAN-LUC GODARD’S BANDE A PART (1964)

Louvre, 40-second movie clip

This short clip comes from Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande á Part, which shows three naughty New Wave teens in the 60s, running through the venerable halls of the Louvre. How different the museum looked back then! Do you recognise the rooms they’re racing through or the Daru stairs they’re tumbling down? Can you imagine the stairs being as empty today?

THE CARTERS’S “APES**T” (2018)

Louvre, 6-minute music video

This is a 6-minute music video by Beyonce and Jay-Z in the Louvre taken place in the Denon & Sully wings at night. Please note there are many expletives in this song, so you may want to view before sharing it with your children. I show it to my kids every time we visit, quizzing them on naming the painters, dates, periods and titles of the works that appear (from Venus de Milo to Gericault’s Raft of Medusa and the Great Sphinx of Tanis), but completely understand if you want to edit this due to the swear words.

MARTIN SCORSESE’S HUGO (2011)

Musee d’Orsay, 1-minute movie clip of opening scene

Although it was once a train station, the Musee d’Orsay has now been transformed into the wonderful museum that it is. It is most commonly known for its clocks, which were repurposed and are now used as windows that overlook the beautiful city of Paris. This opening scene in Hugo shows the main character climbing to the top and looking out at the Parisian streets through the clock face.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S BLACKMAIL (1929)

British Museum, 3-minute movie clip

We can instantly recognise the tall columns of the British Museum’s main entrance in this movie clip, which shows a chase scene through the museum and what was once the British Library. This was one of Hitchcock’s first films to have a chase scene near a famous landmark, foreshadowing other greats like North by Northwest. Imagine if we had access to the domed roof like the actors did!

PAUL KING’S PADDINGTON (2014)

Natural History Museum, 4-minute behind-the-scenes video

Taxidermist and antagonist Millicent Clyde, played by Nicole Kidman, only has one goal in mind: capture Paddington the bear for his rare hide. This clip gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look into the making of the film. Many of the Kidman scenes take place in the museum’s animal exhibitions, but can you spot any other famous attractions? (Think dinosaurs!)

ALEX KURTZMAN’S THE MUMMY (2017)

Natural History Museum, 1-minute behind-the-scenes video

Once again, a movie is filmed displaying the grand staircase in the central hall of the Natural History Museum. In this short 1-minute clip, Tom Cruise’s character is seen running across this area as shards of glass and dust fly towards him. Do you think the museum looks exactly the same as in the 2014 film Paddington?

THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’S “HEY BOY HEY GIRL” (2008)

Natural History Museum, 3-minute music video

Our third find in the Natural History Museum comes not from a film, but a music video! The Chemical Brothers, a British big beat duo, came out with this song in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the music video for it was published on Youtube. In this music video, a young schoolgirl roams around the museum on her own and stares in fascination at the various skeletons and fossils around her.

DAVID KOEPP’S MORTDECAI (2015)

Victoria and Albert Museum, 2-minute movie trailer

The National Art Library’s reading rooms found in the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London are popular filming areas due to their grandeur and great lighting. In this movie trailer, you can see Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) and Inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor) discussing a missing painting in those exact reading rooms from 0:25-0:37.

Can you think of more films or music videos that take place in any other museums across London or Paris? Let us know in the comments below!

THATd’Or was commissioned by the AFMO. My original goal had been to make the hunt exclusively about trains + motion. What could be more suitable than to tip one’s treasure-hunt hat to the history of this gorgeous building? As I’m sure you all know, the Musée d’Orsay was originally a train station, built in only 2 years and unveiled on 14 July 1900 for the Exposition Universelle. Until 1939 the Gare d’Orsay covered the southwestern French lines (thereafter it served the suburbs as the length of the building (138 meters) was too short for the longer trains which appeared during the electrification of trains). During the war it was where prisoners’ mail was dispatched. And before Mitterand unveiled it as a museum in 1986, it was the temporary home to auctioneers (while Druout was being built) as well as being the set for Kafka’s The Trial, by Orson Welles (1962). It’s clearly had several lives, but the Musée d’Orsay celebrates its train station roots beautifully and seemlessly.

THE American Expat Painter

Yes, I guess that title and caps-lock implies just how very much I like John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). He’s probably my favorite American painter*, expat or otherwise.

A Street in Venice, 1880
A Street in Venice, 1880, Clark Art Institute, Mass

I’m happy to say a second THATd’Or is imminently descending upon the coffered halls of the Musée d’Orsay! Kristina Tencic, the AFMO’s Communications Liaison, and I are co-hosting another treasure hunt. This time it’s private and for an exclusive group of expat Americans who’ve been in France for a long time. Who at the Musée d’Orsay could represent such a group better than John Singer Sargent?

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882, MFA, Boston

And so it is with this in mind that I shall let my fingers flutter and see our subject cross the channel and the pond (although to be fair, John Singer Sargent (JSS) didn’t make it to the States till he was 20 years old, when he established citizenship). Both his parents were American, his father was a Dr in Philadelphia; 2 years prior to John’s birth his older sister died. This caused his mother, Mary Singer, to breakdown, and as a result his parents set sail for Europe, never returning. JSS was born in Florence, though he was raised with seasonal visits across Europe. If you’re born and raised “abroad” are you an expat – or is it simply “abroad” for your parents? For that matter, if you grow up on the road are you an expat?

Wyndam Sisters
Wyndam Sisters, 1899, Met, NYC

Putting questions of Sargent’s identity aside, he was without a doubt a great painter whose portraits created an enduring image of society of the Edwardian age, often focusing on ladies in their brocaded satin gowns. Though he studied in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts and under the fashionable society portraitist Carolus-Duran, the heavy spell of JSS’s idol, Velazquez, is apparent in most of his works. The haunting interior of The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882, at Boston’s MFA) has distilled light and delicately adjusted forms which pays tribute to Velazquez’s Las Meninas. Northern masters to influence Sargent were Frans Hals, with his quick stroke and light touch, and of course Anthony Van Dyck with his rich textures and fabrics.

El Jaleo, 1882, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Boston

Sargent’s best known work, and certainly his own favorite was the portrait of Madame X, the famous Parisian beauty. A fellow American expat, Madame Pierre Gautreau was a Louisiana Belle married to a Parisian banker. Sargent did a gazillion studies of her, spending a good amount of time at her country house in Brittany trying to get his studies right. A nervous and, I get the idea, self-important woman, Madame Gautreau never sat for long, but Sargent was the only portraitist of many who’d been granted the permission to paint her – no doubt due in part to being a compatriot – and he was dead-bent on capturing her marvelously.

Madame X, 1884 The Met
Madame X, 1884, The Met, NYC

When he finally did capture her, Sargent entered Madame X‘s soignée portrait in the Salon of 1884 and much to his despair was totally panned. Critics dismissed it as near pornography, complaining of the revealing décolleté black dress, all that skin and her provocative pose. One of the straps of her dress in the first version was off her shoulder! Scandalous! Discouraged by his Parisian failure he fled to London, welcomed by his good friend Henry James. London became his permanent home, but Sargent had many a client in the States, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and perhaps most importantly Isabella Stewart Gardner (who was one of his most loyal and forceful patrons).

Lingering on a light summary of Sargent’s life has been fun, but what to say of THATd’Or? Why have you been reading this? You must want some reward, other than the pleasant visit of seeing his quick and talented stroke, no? Well here’s the give-away: a second prize will go to the team who writes the best limerick which includes elements of the story of John Singer Sargent’s Carmencita, which our hunters will be seeking out at the Musée d’Orsay on Thursday night.

Carmencita, 1890
Carmencita, 1890, Musée d’Orsay

* Although Rembrandt Peale (1778 – 1860) is pretty damned good as well!

THATd’Or was created to provide both an overview & interactive visit to the world’s greatest collection of Impressionist paintings (whilst pumping art-adrenalin!). When your hunt is over you’ll regroup, toddle to one of the museum cafés and open the all-important sealed envelope containing your answer sheet. Once your tootsies are rested and score tallied, our HOPE is that you’ll want to return to the galleries together, to see the art in a leisurely manner (kids on separate teams may want to show off what they found). The Musée d’Orsay gives very little information in its ID tags, so if you return with hunt in hand, you can linger on your treasures (& those gems between treasures). Another goal is to try to sprinkle in French trivia/history on Paris sites so that when your family is out on the town connections to these Impressionist masters might be made to various important landmarks. 

The general rules are quite simple, each team must prove they’ve seen their treasure by photographing themselves (one or more team members – the more the merrier!) in front of the artworks. The point is to have seen as many of the treasures as possible within the given time & get an overview of the former railway station. Some bonus questions are craftily embedded in the text (a carrot to read every word!). The answers to all the knowledge-based bonus questions can be found within the treasure text – it’s just a matter of your team playing to its strengths (who reads fine print with hawk-eyes, who excels with maps/navigation, who’s most visually oriented? The first two qualities are often found in the same person and children are generally stealthy ‘scanners’ once they see the image they’re sussing out).

Please note that no FLASH photography is allowed in the museum – so be sure to turn off the flash on your phone/camera before dashing off on your hunt!

RULES 

  1. Please use only one phone/camera per team – the photographer can change, but one camera / phone makes score-tallying easier.
  2. Teams must stay together at all times and must not run: If you are seen more than 3 meters apart you will lose 10 points per foot you’re found apart (& yes, there was just a switch from meters to feet… you don’t want to learn conversion the hard way, stick together!)
  3. No external help… You’re ousted for asking a guard or fellow visitor directions! Likewise, no GPS, no internet nor anything apart from the hunt & official Musée d’Orsay map (hardcopy)
  4. Must meet back at Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty (all time is synchronized by the large gilded clock overlooking the main hall, easily seen from most of the museum) at the precise pre-arranged end time. Each minute late merits 2 negative points – per minute! – but remember, no running Those who are 10 minutes late are disqualified (sometimes there are strategic reasons for being late, but be careful!).

TOOLS & TIMING 

Comfortable shoes, freshly charged batteries in your camera/phone & a keen sense of curiosity! We provide the THATd’Or hunt, pencils + map of the Musée d’Orsay.

The Hunt lasts 90 minutes to 2 hours (or longer if you opt for this), but we need a minimum of 20 minutes prior to hunting time for a brief history of the museum, to review rules, distribute hunts, pencils + highlighted maps per team & to allow teams to strategise. When booking, you can opt for “express lane” tickets (22€/adult, kids under 18 enter free).