How many YouTube videos do you watch per day? What are your favorite classic films? How many episodes of Breaking Bad have you crammed into one weekend? The subject of these questions, however diverse, is moving image, and this, as the name suggests, is what The Museum of Moving Image is all about. Located in Astoria, Queens in New York, the museum takes visitors on a journey to discover the history of filmmaking as well as modern phenomena and trends in the medium of moving image.
I was happy to take this journey. Upon arrival to the museum, I felt like I was being transported to another world, thanks to the museum’s sleek and modern architecture (renovated and reopened in 2011). The first area I explored was the museum’s core exhibition, Behind the Screen, which demonstrates all of the many components that go into making a film. This exhibition features artifacts including cameras, sound recording equipment, and television sets, evidencing the technological advances over the course of the history of moving image. It also includes costumes, props, pages of original script, character analysis boards, video clips, and fan paraphernalia. The museum’s collection is diverse, ranging from makeup used in Sex and the City to props in Black Swan, to name a couple of my favorites.
My favorite part of the core exhibition was the computer-based interactive experiences. I enjoyed the sound booth where you can record your voice for some of film’s most beloved characters (I chose Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz); the computer program that allows you to select the sound effects to fill in movie scenes (I chose the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park where the kids are hiding from the Velociraptors); and the photo booth that captures your movement frame by frame to create a flip book (see the video for evidence of my enthusiasm!).
There were several special exhibitions (now closed) when I visited the museum, and they have some incredible-looking new ones (including What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones featuring the work of animation director and artist Charles Martin Jones); however, when I visited here were my personal favorites:
First: From Mr. Chips to Scarface: Walter White’s Transformation in Breaking Bad, explored the series development and character transformation of Mr. White and displayed several props, costumes, and behind-the-scenes footage from the series. Oh the thrill of seeing Heisenberg’s hat in person!
Second: Cut Up was dedicated to the modern phenomenon of re-editing popular media, a shared vocabulary of image and sound, to create new work expressing a specific viewpoint. This exhibition demonstrated the differences between supercuts, mashups, remixes, and others. The sample videos taking movies, music videos, television series, and news broadcasts had me in stiches. I’m sure my laughter was echoing as I watched a supercut (definition: a compilation of a large number of short video clips, typically showing examples of a repeated or clichéd action or phrase in films or broadcasts—see, I did learn something) of Kramer’s ridiculous entrances onto the set of Seinfeld through various doors.
The Museum of Moving Image had me at hello. The core exhibition provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes perspective of all of the elements that go into filmmaking and how they have evolved over the years. The temporary special exhibitions grab visitors by using relevant and popular modern media to teach about moving image and various elements of the art. I highly recommend visiting, and I can’t wait to go back!
For more information, including planning a visit or accessing a calendar of events for screenings and lectures, please see movingimage.us.