One-Stop Super Bowl Swap

Photo by John Hilton via Flickr.

Photo by Tom Hilton via Flickr.

Yesterday, Sunday, February 2nd, I went to work at a museum. It was a free day, and the museum was humming with new visitors, musical performances, and that giddy buzz that comes with an unexpectedly warm day in an otherwise cold winter. In spite of all of that excitement, I felt kind of alone: isn’t anyone else here excited for the Super Bowl?

I suppose I should preface my next statement with a disclaimer, so here goes—**WARNING: Blanket Generalization to Follow**—but, when it comes to museums and cultural institutions, this is generally not a community overflowing with ardent sports fans. However, even if a fair few museum employees remain uninterested in the difference between first downs and field goals, an increasing number of museums are happy to embrace the spirit of competition that comes with one of America’s greatest sporting events. What began in 2010 as a friendly wager between the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art—whose respective teams were facing off in that year’s Super Bowl—has now become a four-year-old tradition: when it comes to the Super Bowl, not only is one team going home with a trophy, but their hometown museum is too.

This year, the Super Bowl Art Swap participants were the Seattle Art Museum and the Denver Art Museum. The collection items up for exchange? A Japanese painted screen with a soaring eagle versus a Frederick Remington bronze sculpture of a bucking bronco. Since the Seattle Seahawks demolished the Denver Broncos in last night’s Super Bowl, visitors to SAM should stop by and say hello to the cowboy and his steed in the very near future. But, as lovely as these two pieces of art are, why is it that only the art museums are getting in the Super Bowl betting action?

Here are three Seattle-Denver museum matchups that could have laid an artifact on the line:

1) Flight Fight: The Museum of Flight and the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
Between Seattle’s Boeing history and Colorado’s affiliation with the U.S. Air Force, these cities’ respective flight museums would have been perfect Super Bowl Swap contenders. Obviously swapping large aircraft would be difficult, but both museums possess smaller items of great significance to the story of the skies. For instance, the Museum of Flight could have offered up the mail bag from the first U.S. Air Mail flight.

2) What’s Mine is Yours: Klondike Gold Rush Museum and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Seattle was the launch point for thousands of prospectors heading north to find riches in the Klondike Gold Rush and Colorado is rich in mining history and lore. So, why not put the pickaxes on the line? I’m sure visitors to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum would be thrilled with a temporary loan of Tom’s Baby, an eight-pound gold nugget from Colorado’s mining heyday that is part of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s permanent collection.

3) A Historic Wager: Museum of History and Industry and the History Colorado Center
Both towns share a Wild West history, so surely their history museums would be ideal betting partners. Perhaps the History Colorado Center would have wagered their sculpture of Denver’s famous “Barrel Man” so closely associated with the city’s sports-loving ways? And MOHAI has a few artifacts in their collection pertaining to the city’s beleaguered sports teams that could have been offered up for exchange.

What art or artifacts would you have offered up for the Super Bowl Swap?


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