Ice cream museum is the latest flavor in pop-up cultural events

New York's Museum of Ice Cream encourages visitors to embrace indulgence and their inner child.

Bebeto Matthews/ AP
An installation called "Sundae Stag" by P.J. Linden is among ice cream-themed works of art previewed at the Museum of Ice Cream, Thursday July 28, 2016, in New York. The museum opens on Friday and runs through Aug. 31.

New York City is playing host to the Museum of Ice Cream this month, a pop-up museum that celebrates America’s favorite summer treat with playground-like interactive exhibits, art and, of course, ice cream samples, as museums experiment with innovative approaches to bring more guests indoors. 

The Museum, which runs throughout the month of August, was designed and curated by co-founders Maryellis Bunn and Manish Vora. Tickets were in such popular demand that the event has already sold out, but Ms. Bunn and Mr. Vora are looking to either bring the museum to other cities or find a permanent exhibit space for it in the future.

"We’re creating this for people to really draw and embrace this idea of delight and indulgence," Ms. Bunn told Eater.

Pop-up museums started becoming popular in the past decade, designed as a way to for museums to test out ideas without too much commitment and to change preconceived notions about museums in general by making them more playful and interactive. It joins other pop-up efforts such as sit-down restaurants, food trucks, and operas in train stations that are reimagining ways to connect the public to cultural events.

"Recent efforts on the part of museums to build community participation is a wonderful step in the right direction," but may not be enough of a welcome for people who aren't already aware of them, or "may think of museums as a place one visits to be told about the past (or about science, art, etc.)," Katie Spencer, the executive director of the Museum of Durham History, wrote in a guest blog post. "Pop-up museums have proved to be a simple way ... to communicate our vision of the importance of community participation," and to measure "how successfully we have shared that vision."

In New York at the Museum of Ice Cream, Visitors are greeted with a free scoop. Local ice cream stores, including Black Tap, Oddfellows, and Blue Marble, will be creating custom flavors for the museum each week along with food scientist Irwin Adam. Other snacks include edible balloons made of sugar and filled with helium and glycoprotein pills that alter taste perception, turning sour foods sweet.

The main draw of the museum so far has been its life-size swimming pool of sprinkles. The three foot deep attraction is filled with 11,000 pounds of imitation sprinkles and allows visitors fulfill Bunn’s childhood dream of literally swimming in sprinkles – well, not quite. The sprinkles themselves are only ankle-deep, as some reviewers were disappointed to discover. 

"Through several iterations and constant searching throughout the world, I couldn’t find anything," Bunn told Eater of her search to find a sprinkle swimming pool. "I decided to go ahead and build it myself. You'll be able to fully immerse yourself in a pool of sprinkles."

More than 30 artists contributed ice cream-themed art that is spread throughout the six exhibit rooms.

For one of the exhibit halls, the museum partnered with dating app Tinder to create an app that lets visitors discover their perfect flavor match. The Museum itself makes for a good date spot, with an ice cream-inspired playground that has an ice cream scoop seesaw and an ice cream sandwich swing, both built for two.

The Museum of Ice Cream also aims to encourage community participation.

"Everyone has their own ice cream story," Bunn told Eater. "That’s something we want to be able to celebrate and embrace."

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