Origin of the Museum of the Weird, Part 3

This week I’ve been recounting my experience of how I first opened the museum. You can read the first two installments here and here. After settling on the name “Museum of the Weird” and acquiring some cool attractions to put on display, I decided I had to open it in time for one of our biggest events of the year, the spring Pecan Street Festival, which was only a week or so away at the time. I knew the size of the crowd we’d get that weekend we wouldn’t see again for several more months, so I wanted to seize upon the opportunity, even though there was almost nothing completed in the way of construction of the museum. So I labored day and night trying to get the exhibits finished, sometimes pulling all nighters, sometimes skipping a couple of meals just to work through the day. Finally, the time came to share my creation with the rest of the world. The date was May 5th, 2007. I was very excited, and a little bit nervous. As we opened the doors that first morning of the Pecan Street Festival, people slowly started to trickle in, then as the afternoon progressed, more and more people were coming in. Before I knew it, the place was crowded to capacity, and there was a line of people waiting to get in. And I was afraid nobody was going to show up! And did all those hours of work pay off? Well, monetarily it was a success. But, to be completely honest, the initial reviews were, how shall we say… less than stellar. I’d say about half of the people who came out were disappointed, the other half loved it. The ones who loved it seemed to get the fact that this was a sideshow in the tradition of P.T. Barnum and the dime museums of old. The ones who were disappointed mainly seemed like they expected more and wanted to get more bang for their buck. Some people thought it was a haunted house, and didn’t understand that it was just a sideshow exhibit. Others just assumed that everything in there was all fake (which, I can assure you, is not the case). While I was definitely grateful for all the people who loved it, part of me was frustrated that not everyone enjoyed it. I would think “for $3, what were they expecting, Disneyworld?” But I also realized that billing the place as a “museum” instead of a sideshow may have been a mistake at first. The biggest complaint was that everyone wanted to see more. So from this experience, I learned a couple of valuable lessons. One was, no matter how hard you try to entertain the public, you just can’t please all the people all the time. To quote the great Bill Cosby, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” I also learned I did have a specific audience who love and appreciate what I am doing. I had found my niche. And for those people, the true fans of the weird, I was going to do everything in my power to really make this museum something they would not soon forget! I wanted this place to become legendary. And so began my quest over the ensuing years to constantly expand, improve, and perfect the Museum of the Weird. Today, while the physical space is still small, I finally feel like we have enough exhibits to call the place a true museum… it’s outgrown it’s initial incarnation as a tiny sideshow. And the reviews have steadily gotten better month after month, to the point now where almost every single person who comes in has a satisfying experience. And my quest is ongoing. In fact, it may be never-ending, as I constantly embark on my search to bring to you the bizarre, the strange, the unusual…the WEIRD! I hope you come visit if you’re ever in Austin, TX, and I hope you have as much fun exploring our museum as I had putting it together for you! -Steve Busti

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