By Gabriel Neeb
This weekend is the beginning of the push by the Comic-Con Museum to raise awareness and funding for its construction and opening in the not too distant future.
At the ‘Inside the Comic-con Museum’ panel at the San Diego Comic Convention, key Museum personnel Adam Smith (Executive Director), Keegan Chetwynd (Director of Public Programs) and Melissa Peterman (Vice President of Development) gathered to answer many of the questions that have arisen since the Museum’s announcment.
Adam Smith began the panel by introducing himself and describing his background. He has been working in museums for 30 years and has worked at museums for coal mining, golf, farming and three airplane museums. Chetwynd spent a lot of time working at museums in Texas, and grew up on STAR WARS, working for Comic-Con is a dream come true. Melissa Peterman was the only local (Smith is British and Chetwynd is Canadian) and studied pop culture in graduate school.
The overriding mission of the museum is “To create a community hub for all different fandoms.” To this end, an introductory video was shown announcing the museum and the website. (www.comic-conmuseum.org)
The Museum will be in the Federal Building in the cultural hub of San Diego, Balboa Park. Built in 1935 for the second World’s Fair set in San Diego, the building recently housed the Hall of Champions. According to Chetwynd, they will have 37 years left on the lease. The building has 68,000 square feet and will be heavily remodeled inside. As it is historically protected, there will be only light exterior changes, if any.
Comic-Con had been working on a permanent site for a while and when this opportunity arose, they took it. Adam Smith was hired October 16, 2017 and began the process of planning the museum and raising the necessary fund.
Smith discussed a survey sent to 24,000 members of Comic-Con International which resulted in 6000 replies. The comments alone was 2000 pages long. For museums, this is a huge response and the biggest Smith had ever seen. The Museum is currently working on a conceptual plan with museum planning firm Gallagher and Associates who worked on the Spy Museum in Washington DC, the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, and the World War II Museum in New Orleans- all museums that are both entertaining, but also educational venues.
As part of the fundraising, charter memberships are now available starting at $10 US.
The vision for the Museum is to capture the spirit of Comic-Con even though the current convention has 500,000 square feet as opposed to the 68,000 for the museum. However, the Museum has several hundred operating hours in a year where the con has 50.
The Museum will actually serve two functions. There will be rotating exhibits in the day and other programs lasting until later hours of the night.
They Museum is also trying to adhere to a “fans as curators” ethic, where fan input is extensively worked into the operation of the Museum. While there will be some permanent exhibits, there was strong demand for knowing what comes next.
The current concept will have three floors. One will be historical exhibits, one will deal with current topics of interest, and the third will be about future trends and interests of pop culture, including virtual reality and technological elements of the culture.
Original comic art and artifacts will be on display. There is an attempt being made to use pieces owned by fans so as to limit a massive permanent collection.
Then there was the topic of retail and restaurants. Although no museum is ever judged on the quality of the gift shop, Smith has found that a good cafe can change the opinion/perception of the entire museum.
Smith also found, after watching past conventions, that “fans love to shop.” While having an actual comic store inside was considered, such a concept means so many things to so many people that they’d be defeating themselves… or saving themselves depending on who you ask.
One of the more interesting ideas given to the audience was that guests would be able to build their own heroes during their visits. But first…
The Museum needs to be funded. A comparable effort right now is the George Lucas Museum being planned for Los Angeles. It will cost around $1.5 Billion. The Comic-con Musuem is estimated to be $35 million, with a third of that being covered by CCI. So Peterman is currently coordinating for grants and sponsorship, and a big part of that involves have a large membership.
The Museum is vigorously working on having a large number of members as this impresses the entities that provide grants and sponsorship funds. Fans are encouraged to become charter members and can do so through the website.
The timing question was also dealt with. The plan is for an inaugural announcement and groundbreaking event at the 50th San Diego Comic-Con in July 2019, with an opening scheduled for late 2020 or early 2021.
At this point, Smith allowed for a few questions from the audience. The first was (from a museum studies major) about how the Museum planned to incorporate the non-white heterosexual Male view which has informed so much of pop culture. Chetwynd was quick to cite the mission to keep the ‘fan as curator’ ethic in designing exhibits. Smith’s meeting with grant reviewers have been praised for this ethic and approach.
The next question was about educational outreach. The Museum plans to enact and continue the efforts made by CCI in this area.
The final question was from Fae Desmond, Executive Director of Comic-Con International. She ribbed Smith for his score on the GAME OF THRONES pinball game. Which is only 11,000,000,000.
Melissa Peterman finished the panel by announcing a contest where the winner will receive: (www.omaze.com/comic)
- Get 4-day passes to the 50th Comic-Con, special access to Preview Night, photo booth opportunities and exclusive tickets to live shows
- Enjoy a personal Comic-Con® concierge who’ll help you plan out your schedule and make the most of your experience
- Geek out over the biggest panels from reserved seating in Hall H (for the whole convention!)
- Attend the much anticipated Comic-Con Museum’s inaugural gala
- Be flown out to San Diego and put up in a 4-star hotel
- The contest ends in October 2018. A code for additional entries was given out:
But it expires at 11:59 PM PST 22 July 2018.