Winston Struye/ courtesy of Museum Hack

New York tour company Museum Hack offers the most fascinating, scandalous details behind important museum works—all at an engaging, break-neck pace.

Samantha Shankman
September 24, 2015

Travelers are happy to line up to glimpse the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, or wander through Accademia Gallery in Florence in search of Michelangelo’s David, but in the search for the greats, it’s easy to overlook countless lesser-known works, many with equally rich histories.

New York tour company Museum Hack wants to change that. In fact, Museum Hack totally diverges from the traditional museum experience, offering fast-paced tours (some of which require literal running) that share insights (and salacious details) on artworks both famous and overlooked.

Winston Struye Photography
Winston Struye/ courtesy of Museum Hack

The black string tied around the woman portrayed in Manet’s “Young Lady in 1866” at the Met? That’s no necklace. At the time, the token was used to identify prostitutes. The ancient Egyptian half-moon sickle located in one of the museum’s very first cases? That was a “magic wand” used by parents to keep the monsters away from their children’s beds at night.

Every tour also includes games and contests aimed to make the experience feel like a game show. Participants take Polaroid selfies with their favorite sculptures or try to invent the most believable (or outlandish) use for an ancient artifact.

Winston Struye Photography
Winston Struye/ courtesy of Museum Hack

In addition to the Met, Museum Hack offers its tours at American Museum of Natural History, Rubin Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum. It also operates at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco’s de Young fine arts museum. The standard tour lasts 1½ to 2 hours, and prices start at $39. Groups are kept small on purpose, with about six visitors per guide.

VIP tours, only available at the Met, start at 6:30 p.m. and last three hours, including a wine break and, if you’re lucky, a live musical performance.

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