Ear Hustle

All Things Food!! Food Museum aka “Foodseum” Opens In Chicago’s Loop Area

This type of museum sounds like it will be so much fun to check out.  The Foodseum Chicago is now opened in Chicago’s loop area and it’s free to the public from September 19, 2015 until December 20, 2015.  It’s a very unique twist to paying tribute to what sustains is on a daily basis.  Check out the  Foodseum next time you’re in the downtown Chicago area.

Read more about it as reported by the Chicago Tribune:

foodseum

Kyle Joseph is using “pop-up exhibit” to describe the first bricks-and-mortar incarnation of Foodseum Chicago, a concept that he hopes will eventually become a full-fledged temple to the stuff that sustains us.

But watching the close look at the hot dog and its tubular cousins come together in the Loop this week in advance of a Saturday opening, it was clear that the thing did not exactly pop up.

Walls were installed in the second-floor space at Block 37 that Foodseum will occupy for three months. The floor was painted. And in the final days before curtain, the trappings of a museum went in: laser-etched signs on plywood on one wall; museum branding on vinyl on another; artifacts brought in, including a 19th-century butcher block and cleaver from Vienna Beef that looked ready for the revival of beheadings.

And before all of that, even, came the Kickstarter campaign that raised $33,000, the cultivation of board members including Doug Sohn of Hot Doug’s, the careful development of a business plan that treats the museum like a not-for-profit version of the tech startups Joseph used to be a part of.

So: The pop-up museum is not nearly as sudden as, say, a pop-up ad. But it is much more likable.

“This has been almost all done by volunteers, and a lot of them,” said Joseph. “It’s like crowd-building a museum.”

“The Hot Dog and Encased Meat of the World” is the title of this first, 2,500-square-foot exhibit. Although it was too early Tuesday to get a full sense of it — a table from Ikea was laid out in not-yet-assembled pieces, and only a few wall signs were up — it looks as if Joseph is putting together a quality project.

The 3-D visualization shows an exhibit with sections on world sausage history, Chicago hot dog history, the industrialization of grinding meat and stuffing it into casings, and even some sniffables: spices used to season favorite sausages worldwide, from linguica of Portugal to the saveloy of Australia.

“We really do try to use all of the senses,” said the founder. “We want this to be a taste of what’s to come. We want this to be a permanent museum for Chicago.”

Although he hasn’t worked in the food industry before, Joseph, 32, of Lincoln Park, described himself as a foodie with a passion for different cuisines dating to a childhood spent in places including California, England and Germany.

His dad was a project manager for General Motors, and Joseph, trained at Bradley as an engineer, also worked for a time in the auto industry, he said.

But after going to DePaul for a masters in entrepreneurship, he started working in tech start-ups. His last project, ShopGab, came closest to making it, he said; it leveraged social networks to provide advice on shopping.

When he was looking for what to do next, the idea of a food museum was the one on his list to which people in his network responded strongly, he said.

And so began a mini-course in museum education. He learned that there are similar projects to his on the drawing board, perhaps the most well-known being the Museum of Food and Drink, which wants to open in New York City. There are many item-specific food museums celebrating, for instance, Spam or Jell-O.

foodseum

But the only existing, broad-spectrum one Joseph found is the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans. Joseph has talked with the people who run it, as well as some of those who worked on Copia, a food museum and cultural center in Napa, Calif., that came and went last decade.

Locally, he said, he visited almost all of the museums, no matter their topic, to pick exhibit designers’ brains and, when allowed, study their financial data.

Along the way, his idea evolved — “from the dream of sharing fun new foods to much more of a purpose,” he said. “We’re looking at this as a place of inspiration. We want people to connect to food, and we want you to create your own, whether you become a food blogger or a cook. It’s all about that spark.”

One thing he’s learned is that a not-for-profit can find a lot of people willing to help out, from his landlords at Block 37, who offered a good deal on the space, to legendary local drive-in Superdawg, which lent him a working intercom like the ones used for ordering at the restaurant.

The hot dog was a natural, Joseph figured, for a first Chicago show and one that could be used to prove the concept of a food museum to the community and potential backers.

But it’s going to be tricky, with this exhibit, to provide people with the sense of taste that he knows a food museum should offer. Serving hot food in Chicago, it seems, is not something easily done within the law. To do so without a kitchen, he said, he needs caterers to run the tasting, which means he’ll likely be able to offer sausage samples only intermittently during the exhibit’s run.

Some of what is being mounted in the space at the southwest corner of the Block 37 building has been crowd tested at numerous event appearances made by Foodseum since it started about a year-and-a-half ago: the sausage grinder that uses Play-Doh, for instance, or the roll of butcher paper on which people are encouraged to write favorite food memories.

foodseum

In one corner of the museum-to-be, Joseph pointed to a pile of memorabilia. “Doug from Hot Doug’s is on our board,” he said. “He gave us a ton of stuff. He has kind of an impressive collection of you-name-it: hot dog hats, hot dog phone, candles, bubble gum, stuffed animals.”

But material of that sort, of course, needs display space, and the table from Ikea was not going to build itself.

When last we left the Foodseum founder, the table was working better as metaphor than as furniture: It was awaiting assembly, wood pieces on the floor, fasteners on a folding table and, beside them, some less-than-explicit instructions.

Foodseum

When: Saturday through Dec. 20

Where: Block 37, 109 N. Dearborn St., second floor; 11 a.m. to 7p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Tickets: Free; foodseum.org

Source: Chicago Tribune

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