‘Selfie’ program highlights local museum community

Matthew Moss

Staff Writer

In today’s Internet age with information right at a person’s fingertips, some people may no longer consider local museums an important resource. However, the MAC ‘n’ Cheese Selfie program hopes to change that and attract visitors to local museums by incorporating social media into the experience.

The MAC ‘n’ Cheese program, organized by the Museum at the Crossroads Consortium, invites visitors to come into local museums, take self-portraits, and post them on Facebook as a measure to attract more people and introduce them to the museums and galleries of the area.

David Leake, director of Staerkel Planetarium, describes the program as a means to lead people to the “treasure in [their] backyard,” referring to the rich museum community.

Profit is not the focus of the program, as many of the museums in Champaign County do not charge for entry.  Attracting people to the local museums and galleries is the primary objective.

“It’s not to make money … it’s just a fun thing,” Leake said.  “Hopefully, people will get one and maybe think about another.  We hope that it will snowball.”

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus Parkland student Bailee Kaufman participates in the “MAC” ‘n’ Cheese program in the Parkland Art Gallery on Wednesday, Sept.16, 2015. The program is hoping to attract more visitors to local museums by incorporating social media

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus
Parkland student Bailee Kaufman participates in the “MAC” ‘n’ Cheese program in the Parkland Art Gallery on Wednesday, Sept.16, 2015. The program is hoping to attract more visitors to local museums by incorporating social media

Leake says that simply by visiting the museums, a person can learn a lot about their community.

“[Parkland students can gain] more of an awareness of the county around them,” Leake said.  “We get people who come down here and say, ‘I didn’t even know this was here!’  There are a lot of resources here.”

Local museums can also provide academic and educational resources as well.  Visiting museums can offer a more personal connection in learning rather than gathering information from electronic sources alone.

“The first thing people do is say, ‘Where’s my phone?” Leake said.  “There are a lot of cultural resources in the area that can be used.”

Lisa Costello, director of the Giertz Gallery, also hopes the program will promote community engagement.

Costello says Parkland students could gain new perspectives on art and their environment as a whole just from visiting the Giertz Gallery, the Planetarium, and the other museums and galleries in the area.

Another goal of the program is to present the Champaign County museum community as being a cooperative endeavor rather than a competitive one.

“We like to show that the local museums are operating in cooperation with each other,” Leake said.

Depending on the number of people who participate in the program, there may be a prize at the end.  That prize has yet to be determined, though it may include museum-themed items or gift cards to affiliated businesses like restaurants.

Despite the prospect of a reward for those who participate, Leake hopes the desire to visit the museums outweighs the desire for a prize.

“We hope that the prize itself isn’t why people are doing it,” Leake said.

The Museums at the Crossroads Consortium includes 11 museums and galleries throughout Champaign County.  Two of those locations are here at Parkland, including the Giertz Art Gallery and the Staerkel Planetarium.

Each museum has designated places for taking selfies.  Once participants take a picture, they should post them to Facebook with the tag “#MACnCheese2015” and be sure the location is set to the museum where the picture was taken.

Anyone looking to participate in the MAC ‘n’ Cheese program can get more information by going to the Visit Champaign County website or by stopping in and speaking with staff at any of the 11 participating locations.  The program ends on Oct. 31.