Unpopular Opinion: I Didn't Really Like Museum of Ice Cream
I’m about to say something wildly unpopular to the Instagram community: I didn’t really like Museum of Ice Cream. Don’t get me wrong - I enjoyed indulging in copious amounts of ice cream, being in millennial pink rooms as far as the eye could see and taking fun photos - that was all totally great. Perhaps a Color Factory spoiled every pop-up museum experience for me with too high of a bar, but I couldn’t escape how the Museum of Ice Cream felt incredibly superficial.
I say that being fully aware that the museum exists as a shrine to dessert, which isn’t exactly a serious topic, but I STILL felt surprised by how shallow and superficial the entire experience felt.
You enter the candy-coated pink building, ushered in with a large group of people and have time limits to enjoy the rooms. Does anyone else struggle to have fun when someone yells at them to *start* having fun because you only have two minutes to do so? Yeah, that’s right - there’s a two minute time limit for the famous sprinkle pool. Factor in taking off shoes, finding a people-free corner and you’ve maybe got 45 seconds to throw some sprinkles before they’re warning you to get out. Was my experience an anomaly? I have no idea. The only review I’ve ever read was this slightly bizarre/slightly fascinating article. Was I expecting too much of a museum that literally exists because of Instagram? Also completely possible.
Regardless, the museum never felt like it had people’s experience in mind. It felt designed for mindless Instagram robots who don’t care to actually learn, see, experience, touch, etc. It was about rushing to get your best ‘gram in a crowd of too many people jammed into small rooms. Add in children and too much sugar and it’s basically a recipe for a confusing hour spent wondering what just happened. I did learn one fact I remembered during the sugar rush of this trip: George Washington liked ice cream so much he spent $200 on flavors of it during one summer - today’s equivalent of dropping more than 5,000 dollars on ice cream. POTUS really liked his ice cream!
But that was it. I ended up leaving with my one ice cream fact, slightly sticky fingers and a lot of ambivalence. What exactly did I just experience? Is this what the future will be like - huge spaces existing just for Instagram? As much as I love Instagram, I’m still not sure how to feel about being in a jammed room with people competing for the best ‘gram. Especially since I felt hyper-aware of brand sponsorships in the rooms and didn’t feel any sense of inspiration at the designs. Perhaps the San Francisco design wasn’t as strong as the other city locations?
At a Color Factory, the room concepts felt really imaginative and interactive. It was easy to see what the designer was thinking when you entered each room; like “what if we turned the walls of the room into a coloring book and let people fill in the lines?” versus walking into Museum of Ice Cream and thinking… “Okay, there’s a unicorn in the middle of rainbow colored room… that’s cool.” Maybe I was just over-inundated with images of the museum that it left little to the imagination? That's possible, TOO. I still didn’t feel inspired when seeing things I hadn’t seen, so it fell short in more ways than oversaturated social media coverage.
One thing that could have made the experience better was the amount of people they let in at a time. It felt SO crowded and really amplified the lack of space for the installations. I also wish there was a bit more to read about each installation (am I a nerd for saying that?), but I just wanted to have more buy-in to the design since some of them felt a little random.
For what it was, there still was plenty of visual candy to admire. It was a syrupy sweet experience that lacked any substance...but maybe that’s what you get when you sign up for something only knowing there will be pink walls and ice cream. The highlights on Instagram really are all you’ll get.
Have you been to any of the Museum of Ice Cream pop ups? Did you enjoy them?