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Mascots & Movies Inspire New Museums

The Oscars, the Statue of Liberty and the Phillie Phanatic have something in common: Each of these icons serves as the inspiration for a new museum.

Group leaders looking to add never-before-seen destinations to their tours should consider incorporating one of these new museum experiences in their itineraries.

Museum of Fine Arts

Houston

A multiyear redevelopment of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) will transform the 14-acre site into a walkable public greenspace. Construction began on the $450 million expansion in 2015, with an expected completion date this fall.

Among the additions is the 15,000-square-foot Nancy and Rich Kinder Building to showcase art created after 1900. The new building will also include 25 traveling exhibit galleries, educational areas, a theater and a restaurant.

Other planned buildings include an art school, a conservation center and a landscape plan that knits together a century’s worth of signature architectural structures.

Opened in 1924, the MFAH is already one of the largest cultural institutions in the country. The museum covers art from around the world. It is especially lauded for its collection in pre-Columbian, Renaissance, Baroque and Latin American art.

Groups can book an intimate tour of the museum for behind-the-scenes information into some of the museum’s 64,000 works from six continents.

mfah.org

Mascot Hall of Fame

Whiting, Indiana

Before its grand opening in April 2019, the Mascot Hall of Fame began as a website in 2005. After years of honoring standout sports mascots, the Hall of Fame opened a vibrantly colored physical building on the south shore of Lake Michigan in Whiting, Indiana.

Founded by a former mascot, Dave Raymond, the original Phillie Phanatic, the museum educates visitors about the history of mascots, explains how they are created and showcases mascot memorabilia from around the world.

The three-story museum embraces its whimsical theme to appeal to children, sports fans and roadside Americana enthusiasts. Groups can see items from beloved mascots, such as the costume for Moonchester, the soccer mascot for Manchester City, England, and the shoes worn by the Phillie Phanatic.

Kids and adults with a sense of fun can design their own mascots and brush up on their mascot skills with interactive activities such as launching virtual T-shirt cannons into a crowd.

mascothalloffame.com

Statue of Liberty Museum

New York

A 3,600-pound torch immediately grabs guests’ attention at the Statue of Liberty Museum. The new museum allows patrons to learn about the history and construction of the famous statue and symbol of freedom. The statue’s original torch, replaced in 1986, serves as the museum’s centerpiece.

The museum is on Liberty Island in New York City. Opened in May 2019, the museum began construction in 2016. The 26,000-square-foot museum can accommodate all the island’s daily visitors; the former museum could only hold 20%.

The sustainable building’s design mimics the statue’s copper structure and granite base. Inside, multimedia displays offer a virtual tour of the statue’s interior. More than 500 photographs include images from the statue’s construction and early sketch designs from France.

libertyellisfoundation.org/statueoflibertymuseum

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Los Angeles

Set to open this year, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be the country’s first large-scale museum dedicated entirely to the art and history of film. Permanent and rotating exhibits will immerse visitors in the process and magic of Hollywood and the film industry.

The museum will open in two buildings, one a renovated historic landmark and the other a new structure. Named the Sphere, the new building will feature a 1,500-panel glass dome. Together, the two buildings will have 300,000 square feet of public and exhibition space.

Officials announced plans for the museum in 2012. The Academy of Motion Pictures has collected movie-related materials since the 1930s. Among the museum’s key memorabilia are Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz,” a shark mold from “Jaws” and tablets from “The Ten Commandments.”

academymuseum.org

National Museum of African American Music

Nashville

Clothes worn by Nat King Cole, Whitney Houston and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes are among many artifacts from influential musicians honored in the National Museum of African American Music. Set to open this year, the Nashville museum will be one of the few attractions to focus on African American contributions to more than 50 American music genres.

A 200-seat theater and five permanent themed galleries with up to 1,400 artifacts will explore African American music roots. An animated timeline links American history with the music of each period. In the Wade in the Water gallery, exhibits reveal how the African music brought to America by the slave trade transformed over time to become African American spirituals and gospel music.

Similar exhibits explore the African American influences on blues, jazz, country and hip hop, among others.

The 56,000-square-foot facility will open in downtown Nashville with an expected cost of $50 million.

nmaam.org

Eliza Myers

Eliza Myers has worked for The Group Travel Leader since 2007. She is the online editor and associate editor for Select Traveler.

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