Courier August/September Courier - Page 31

Anything but dry and dusty Museums serve to enlighten, educate and fascinate visitors BY PATTI NICKELL FOR MANY TRAVELERS, the prospect of spending a few hours in a museum doesn’t exactly result in rapturous excitement. They conjure up images from childhood visits to museums: endless relics explained in excruciating detail by docents who, in their zeal, fail to notice the glazed-over expressions on visitors’ faces. It might be different if these institutions were devoted to—oh, say—witch trials or wanton carnival revelry. What if they honored a Sioux war chief or an artist known Mardi Gras World for his mustache and a penchant for painting melting timepieces? How about a museum whose treasures included Mick Jagger’s bell bottoms and Elton John’s rainbow-hued regalia? And what if an entire museum was based around our childhood love of play? Today’s museums are anything but dry and dusty, and energetic exhibits make musty memories fade away. Here are 10 NTA-member attractions that redefine the concept of what makes a museum worth visiting. | New Orleans “Throw me something, mister!” is the cry heard every year as thousands of revelers gather in the Big Easy for Mardi Gras. But even if your group can’t make it to Carnival, they can experience the pageantry of the celebration year-round at Mardi Gras World. On the banks of the Mississippi River, this 300,000-square-foot warehouse is where floats are constructed for all the Carnival parades. Magic is made here: Dragons and dinosaurs are created out of chicken wire and crepe paper, and 10-foot heads of Hillary Clinton and Hannibal Lector are fashioned from Styrofoam sheets and papier-mache. Visitors can watch artists at work and then view the results. They might even leave with a few strands of plastic beads draped around their necks. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum From Hank Williams’ cheatin’ heart to Taylor Swift’s cheating boyfriends … from rhinestone cowboys to the Man in Black … and whether you dote on Dolly or are mad about Merle, this is the place for country music lovers to get their groove on. Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has been referred to as the “Smithsonian of Country Music,” with some 2.5 million artifacts tracing the evolution of country music from its roots to present day. Those items range from Mother Maybelle Carter’s Gibson guitar and Elvis Presley’s solid gold Cadillac limousine to the dress Carrie Underwood wore when she won “American Idol.” Of interest to groups is a special program linked to the major exhibit, “Outlaws and Armadillos.” Groups can tour the exhibit, says Dana Romanello, senior manager for tourism and admis- sion sales, and then take part in a personal showcase and dis- cussion with two musicians who played with Waylon Jennings and others of the Outlaw era. Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum 27