When I lived in Paris, I kept hearing about a woman who ran treasure hunts in the Musée du Louvre. I was intrigued by the concept and impressed by the creative business idea.
The woman behind the hunts is Daisy de Plume, founder and Creative Director of THATMuse (Treasure Hunt at the Museum). An American expat, she started her company in the galleries of the Louvre, and soon spread to the Musée d'Orsay, the streets of Paris, and most recently to The British Museum.
Daisy grew up playing games that her mother (an art historian) created to keep her amused in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This pleasure of using museums as playgrounds soaks into her museum treasure hunts, which introduce visitors to a new way of experiencing museums.
While I didn't cross paths with Daisy before I left Paris for Montreal, I finally had the chance to go on one of her creative hunts when I visited Paris this past January.
What is a museum treasure hunt? According to the THATMuse website:
Our mission is to engage hunters on their scout for treasure (the art of the museums), by injecting a bit of adrenaline, interaction and learning into your museum visit. Teams of 2 to 4 people photo themselves in front of as many treasures as possible within the given amount of time. Poof! The very notion of “Museum Legs” disappears. Our goal? To make hunters want to – voluntarily – return to the galleries after their hunt. That’s why we provide excess treasure: it’s inconceivable to find all your treasure within a 90 min to 2 hour hunt, thus the need to strategise.
Personally, I had a grand time on my treasure hunt in the Louvre. My husband and I were met outside the museum by Annie Renn, the Head of French Operations. She explained the rules and gave us our hunt materials. My husband and I then strategized about how to approach our hunt, armed with an annotated museum map and a booklet full of clues and point values. In the galleries, we took silly photos in front of artworks, learned new information about familiar objects, and strategized about the best route to find the most treasure possible in the allotted time frame. After an eventful hunt all over the museum, it was fun to relax on a bench by the last artwork and tally up our points.
While I've still never met Daisy in person, she graciously answered some of my questions about creating treasure hunts in museums.
What are your objectives for participants in terms of their experience or learning during a hunt?
Oh so many... I’ve tried to make the hunts as flexible as possible so that it can reach various demographics. For kids of varying ages, I hope that they’ll remember just three or four pieces from their museum treasure hunt by grace of silliness or photos. For instance, if their father poses in front of Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, in agony, writhing in his last moment and pulls his shirt up (for bonus points), then perhaps they’ll remember that piece. Or if they have to follow the directions of what Contrapposto is in front of the Venus de Milo for those extra THATMuse points, then perhaps they’ll remember her better. But then for corporate hunts of people who live in London or Paris and know their city’s museums fairly well, perhaps they’ll take a morsel away about Nereid Nymphs, who are sprinkled across Greek mythology from Thetis (Achilles’s mum) to Amphitrite (Poseidon’s consort).
The THATMuse blog has a collection of articles I’ve written about certain pieces pertinent to their treasure theme. We email this link to all of our clients prior to meeting, so the team who reads about their museum visit prior to coming will be able to answer more bonus questions embedded in their treasure text. I had a whole string of American law firms in Paris play for Christmas parties and it’s always amazed me how much time they’ve devoted to the blog reading ahead of time in order to beat their colleagues – aren’t they off winning cases and handling Mergers and Acquisitions… or are they billing their clients whilst reading about the Louvre...
You recently expanded to the British Museum. Can you describe the process of implementing hunts in a new museum?
Well it’s the greatest stage of the whole process I guess (although I miss my daily visits to the Louvre something fierce). Starting up at a new museum means skulking about for hours on end, day after day, week after week. Thus far I’ve built three themes at the British Museum, currently I’m building my 4th (the Love Hunt). The better I know the place the easier it becomes, so the first hunt always takes the longest to build, but like anything each step is a building block. The British Museum is nowhere near as big as the Louvre, but it’s still a place to contend with – with 8 million artifacts. Getting to know it is the greatest part of building it up, starting to see rhythms and patterns, connections from culture to culture, similarities between gods and goddesses in lands that had no cross over. The moment these things start popping out is very exciting.
What is your creative process in developing content?
The treasure text, for the Louvre especially (since my background is art history, as opposed to archeology and history at the British Museum), just sort of flows out of me after I’ve done a fair amount of research on either the story of the painting or the history of the piece. For treasure text of works that I’m unfamiliar with (periods such as Mesopotamia and Egypt were never of any interest to me during school, although since starting THATMuse I’ve really fallen in love with some Assyrian pieces and delved into the world of Near Eastern art in a way I’d never expected), I of course need to do much more research per piece. There are times that I’ll do a lot of research about a piece that would be good for a hunt, because of where it’s located within the museum or because of its content fitting my theme so well, and if I can’t find a fun angle or anecdote I’ll just leave it and not bother to write it up.
What is your approach to spreading the word about the hunts?
I have no business degree or formal training, but realized 5 years ago when I started THATLou that I get a total kick out of guerilla marketing. Someone asked me recently how I would define marketing and I found myself saying it’s a lot of silliness where you throw a lot out there and hope that something sticks or leads to something else. Social media is the platform that makes this possible – makes anything possible, really. We landed in Lonely Planet only because I was relentlessly posting random art shenanigans and museum photos and THAT-news.
On Social Media we’re running a #THATMuseFacts campaign twice daily for the first THATMuse year. We’re posting at the morning and evening rush-hour for London and Paris on weekdays (& twice daily on the weekends) on both Twitter and our THATMuse Facebook business account. They’re just bits of 140 character trivia with a photo of the piece, concerning any of our three museums, the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay or British Museum. The idea or hope is that when people tune in they’ll start contributing their own #THATMuseFacts on Twitter or our FB account, with facts about their own museums. @Paris_by_Elodie, who has a fantastic collection of tweets on anything to do with Paris (anyone going to Paris should follow her for up-to-date news and Paris history) has contributed some wonderful #THATMuseFacts in response.
What’s next for THATMuse?
As we’ve expanded with a team in both Paris and London in place I’ve tried to be a bit more “intentional” in our rebrand consolidating under one THATMuse name [instead of individual names for each museum].
A mission for our first year of rebranding is to have a few public hunts running SIMULTANEOUSLY on Friday nights in both Paris and London (and yes those caps imply my total excitement on this fact – I think it’s all too fun to boot). Annie Renn, who heads up our French operations, holds public hunts at 6:30 at the Louvre while I do the British Museum on the same night at 5:30 pm (to match the Paris London time difference!). For our Easter hunt (14 April) we have a mother-daughter team going on, where an English girl named Lucie who lives in Paris will bring a team to play at the Louvre, while her mother and sister will be a team playing at the British Museum – that’s just too much fun! On Friday the 13th of October (2017) we’ll run a Skull Scouting hunt at both the Louvre and the British Museum. I find all this silliness thoroughly entertaining!
A big thank you to Daisy for her insights! Learn more about THATMuse hunts in the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, the streets of Paris, and The British Museum here.
THATMuse provided me with this tour free of charge. The opinions expressed here are my own.