MuseTube

GuggenheimNYC300At the Lear Center, we’ve long been intrigued by the idea of a museum of entertainment. No, not some place with weathered props and stars in wax, but an online, comprehensive survey of everything that human beings have considered entertaining. Big idea.

This museum could give us a much clearer version of where we’ve been and, perhaps, where we’re going in terms of entertainment and our culture. Maybe it could even help us sequence the genome of entertainment.

Then, during a recent staff meeting, it occurred to me that an astonishingly rich, complex, and increasingly complete museum of entertainment already existed – Hello, YouTube!

Here’s something already in place that offers the promise of nearly every possible recorded example of what has entertained people ever, from Gilgamesh to Grey’s Anatomy toGotterdammerung.

But what’s really available? I jotted down 60 random pieces of entertainment… and found samples of every one. What breadth! Here’s the shortlist: Oedipus. Nat King Cole. Monster Truck Crashes. Persian Sufi Music. Groucho Marx. Nijinsky Dancing. Chinese Opera. The Dude. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? What Would I Want? Sky. Fado.

So can we just link YouTube videos to relevant showbiz entries on Wikipedia and cut the opening day ribbon? Not really. Wikipedia is a true encyclopedia – basic info, often a bit dull, sometimes woefully incomplete – whereas a good museum demands deeply-researched and well-written brochures, listening tours and wall plaques to inform visitors and enrich their museum experience. That’s what a museum of entertainment requires: everything about a museum of entertainment should be entertaining.

What our YouTube-based museum seems to desperately need is some sort of curator(s), maybe just a search engine overlay that allows you to type in “Woody Allen” and view his movies with annotations that link to clips from his inspirations like Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, Bergman and Fellini, along with links to related reviews, interviews, monographs and academic papers. The piece of entertainment itself, the performance, could be placed on a timeline, linked to the events and entertainments that contributed to it and to everything that flowed from it.

Have you ever found anything like this museum prototype in your web browsing? If so, please send me a note (enter@usc.edu) with the link. Or if this is truly fresh territory, doesn’t this challenge sound awesome? Any willing collaborators out there? Imagine what crowdsourcing could do in terms of constructing and curating this marvel.

It’s a big job, but somebody ought to do it.

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