Seven Minutes of Fame and How It Changed An Image
On March 21, 2012, the NBC morning program Today presented a seven-minute segment hosted by Jenna Bush Hager and Sara Haines. The segment was filmed at Costume World’s Broadway Collection and represented over twelve-hours of taping at the facility in Florida.
While overall, the presentation was a very positive, up-beat look at costumes and an obviously amusing venue for these young women, it ignited a firestorm of controversy on the internet and social media sites over the apparent lack of respect by the show’s producers for the nature of the museum and the priceless wardrobes it houses. Comments like “sophomoric, giddy, farcical, and juvenile” crept into conversations of bloggers who took to the internet to vent their obvious displeasure over the casual manner in which the museum was being represented.
While we were very grateful for the exposure given to the museum by the Today Show, I wondered if this misconception was our own doing. It is true we were given little opportunity to provide artistic input on the scope of the project and for that reason, the NBC segment had a more light-hearted feel steered by an equally light-hearted host. It is also true that we currently present the museum more as a fun, exciting place to visit rather than an educational experience, so it is understandable that NBC’s producers chose the direction that they did even if it was not the image we wished to portray. This prompted me to step back and reconsider the true mission of the Broadway Collection and its responsibility to the legacy of Broadway theatre.
The purpose of the Broadway Collection is to honor the costume designer and enable each visitor to see beyond the individual costume to an appreciation of the process involved in bringing a Broadway show to the stage. With over one million pieces in the collection, the visitor can also see first-hand how artistry and design have evolved over the years. These two aspects make the Broadway Collection significant not only as an educational tool, but as a custodian for a vitally important aspect of our American culture.
Over the next months, my staff and I will be working together to re-focus the mission and purpose of the museum to find that happy medium between being a Disney-like amusement destination and a serious repository devoted to the history of the American musical theatre.