February 2020

I đź’ś Museums Playlist

Drawing of a red heart with the words “I Love Museums” on an orange banner wrapped around the heart, and a black arrow going through the heart from top to bottom.
Image credit: Ink For The Arts – An initiative by Cuseum

It’s once again that time of year in North America when we reflect on our feelings of love…for museums, right? Perhaps your feelings are actually about love in, or near, a museum, but either way, we’ve got a sweet little playlist for you to enjoy. Thanks to all who shared their favorite songs and special insights with us!

1. “Happy If You’re Happy” by Matt & Kim
Recommended by Hazel Theriault, MER Board member and Manager of Public Programs at Orlando Science Center 

In this song, Matt of Matt & Kim talks about spending the day in a museum because his partner loves them. It reminds me of how my partner puts up with me taking photos of exhibit signage, asking staff questions, and exploring every inch of every museum within driving distance when we go on vacations.

2. “Vincent” – Don McLean
Recommended by Sam Theriault, MER Membership & Marketing Manager

This song is about Vincent Van Gogh and named for the iconic painting Starry Night, which I saw at MoMA in 2014. On a date, of course! (And yes… we are still together!) I have always loved Van Gogh and Starry Night in particular, and I think this song captures the imagination many art lovers have when they wonder what the artist’s thought process was while making a beloved work of art.  

3. “The Art Teacher” – Rufus Wainwright 

Ah, young love. And still, despite teenage hormones and an as yet undeveloped prefrontal cortex, memories of a visit to the Met and beautiful Rubens, Rembrandts, and Sargents are embedded!

4. “All the Rowboats” – Regina Spektor
Recommended by David Bowles, Gallery Educator at the J. Paul Getty Museum

My experience of “love” is full of hope and fear, trust and doubt, strength and weakness, and Regina Spektor’s lyrics resonate with my complex love of museum experiences. She sings about the tension between preserving art and creating it – the museums’ impossible self-appointed task of saving art from the ravages of time, which of course is impossible. The line “It’s their own fault for being timeless” gets me every time.

5. “The Louvre” – Lorde
Recommended by Julie Fooshee, Science Engagement Specialist 

I travel a lot by myself, and I’m always visiting museums; headphones in – my very own soundtrack, I tour in my own world. “Louvre” is one of those songs that shuffled through mid-museum somewhere across in Europe and now whenever I hear it, I still think about smooth, curving, life-like marble, the gentle creak of ancient wooden floors. Maybe it’s not traditional love, but it’s love to me: breathing life into the things we hold sacred in loud but hallowed halls.

6. “White Sky”  – Vampire Weekend
Recommended by Michelle Dezember, MER Board member 

This upbeat song references MoMA saying “Around the corner, the house that modern art built / I ask for modern art to keep it out the closets / The people who might own it, the sins of pride and envy / And on the second floor the Richard Serra Skate Park.” There’s a feeling that a young couple on a date could wander through the galleries singing these lyrics, almost like Sloane and Ferris at the Art Institute of Chicago in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.

7. “Girlfriend” – The Modern Lovers

The references to the MFA and the Fenway in this song really evoke a sense of February in Boston. And, there’s so much to love about owning poor spelling! But it’s the longing, with a little sweetness and melancholy (“Four o’ clock in the afternoon in the Fenway / I have my heart in my hands”) that will compel you to play this song over and over.

8. “Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens” – Tiny Ruins
Recommended by Ed Rodley, Associated Director of Integrated Media at the Peabody Essex Museum

A friend recommended New Zealand’s Tiny Ruins’ album “Brightly Painted One”, so I downloaded the album without much thought. When I found the first track was called “Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens” I was excited. By the end of the first verse, it was firmly enshrined in my heart. It’s an achingly beautiful and sweet meditation on being in love. It brought me back to my own youth, working as a guard at a museum and the way time gets measured out: when’s the next thirty-minute break, goofing off with coworkers just enough to kill time but not enough to get in trouble, and looking for that special someone. The fact that I met my future wife while we were working crowd control for the summer blockbuster exhibition might have something to do with it, too. 

On the other side of love right now? No worries, “Stoned at the MOMA” by Toro y Moi (recommended by Kenneth Chang through MER’s Facebook) can help you shed some angst while appreciating a crooner who chooses to be in a museum while working through heartbreak. And, “Museums” by Wall of Voodoo can keep you busy pondering the phrase “still life at museums.”  Readers, why not take a trip to a museum today and “bring some mystery to [y]our love”?

Listen to the full playlist on YouTube:

Brindha Muniappan (she/her) is Senior Director of the Museum Experience at the Discovery Museum in Acton, Massachusetts and a member of the Museum Education Roundtable Board.