Exhibition Report:
Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Exhibition, Indiana State Museum, IN
Diana, MaceVindaloo, Csillag, PlazaQueen, Bunchbox

Hutties have seen this exhibit before, in different locations, and different times, too. Part of it has to do without our relatively recently acquired taste for cosplay; we'd had a lot of fun planning, building, and showing off our costumes at various cons and parties. We'd learned that detail is important. And accessories are really important! So, we wanted to do research with cosplay in mind, knowing the people we'd want to impress are those who'd seen this exhibition, too.

We knew that the lighting was poor. On previous trips, the major complaints were: too dark, too crowded, too small, not allowed to go to the bathroom (no re-entry into the exhibit). The too small ... well, the exhibit is the exhibit, and wishing for more costumes and stuff was not going to produce them. But happily, the other complaints were somewhat addressed and the experience improved over previous visits.

The bathroom thing — the ladies at the entrance said, "Well, if you have to go, just let us know you're going, so we can recognize you to let you back in after you're done." Very homey, dont you think? Why not stamp our foreheads instead? They made you feel like they were willingly breaking the rules just for you. It may seem charming, but we still don't understand the rule in the first place.

The crowding was predictable during Thanksgiving, even with the extended hours. So, this time, we came early and planned to see the exhibition several times (knowing we might not be able to see everything we wanted to before needing to run to the bathroom! See above for that one). The earlier the better, most definitely, since most families hauling kids and elders tend to take longer than expected to get anywhere on weekend mornings. But on non-holidays, the museum is only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., so there are limited times you can get in. The timed tickets do help a bit, and try to get the earlier times (you can always go to bed earlier, if you must!).

At least the lighting has been improved — it wasn't nearly so dark as previous visits. They must have twiddled with the light settings. We still couldn't see much of the Nazgul's armor at all (understandable of the ringwraiths, we suppose), but we could actually see Sauron's armor details in full, and the other costumes and stuff could be seen quite clearly both front and back. We were able to see and surmise many more details than before.

We realize that part of the dim lighting has to do with illusion, and the need to sustain it. For instance, the latex mannequin of Boromir was so realistic and so well lit that the younger among us was terrified by him. Small children wouldn't go past the cave troll and goblin diorama, but they did like the height charge. A couple of us were short orcs or short elves. Seems that humans are a rarity among exhibition-goers!

We concur with others in noting that the costumes and props made by Weta Studio and Three Foot Six were really stunning and the stars of this show. The details were amazing, and they extended to parts of the costumes which would not show up in film. This was a labor of love and pride by many. It's a shame more was not shown; they could have easily gotten more space by getting rid of the One Ring display, which was simply silly and overdone in comparison to the rest of the exhibit. On the other hand, a show of all costumes can soon get rather dull for those not into cosplay. Some of us are special effects wonks, after all.

We understand that photos were not permitted by Te Papa, who put together the exhibit. We understand its better for crowd control. But we still think it's stupid, especially since no one associated with the museum had any clue why photos were not allowed.

Regarding the cost to enter the exhibition, one of us had joined the Indiana State Museum with a family membership, which cost her $50. But the benefit is that we each paid $10 less for a ticket to see the exhibit! And other small services like coat-check were free (otherwise 50 cents a coat). Other benefits include the 10% discount at the store, free IMAX vouchers / "museum bucks", and discounts to classes and workshops. Remember that museums get these exhibits to attract new members, so don't be shy about using your benefits. If you are going more than 5 times, or are sponsoring 4 guests, the membership pays for itself. And it was nice not having to carry our coats around, too.

Finally, if only they had a souvenir catalog for sale! It would have resulted in fewer people being tempted to sneak a photo or two! We'd seen the exhibition a total of 20 times between us, and we are still embittered by the absence of decent souvenirs. The offerings were pretty picked over at this late date, but even when it wasn't they should have had more moderately priced and varied types of merchandise. Surely the Sideshow Weta things and expensive wool scarves and clocks and ugly bookmarks couldn't be the only things allowed for sale?? And let's face it, how many Legolas Ken dolls and cardboard stand-ups does one really need or want? A lot of it was being discounted, but there wasn't much that was terribly "must have" for the prices. They should have put the videos they showed in the exhibits on sale; we know we enjoyed them, but its hard to do so with hoards around you. But we bet there are licensing issues ... it's the only thing we can think of that prevents a catalog or exhibition videos to be sold.

Actually, there was one "free" souvenir — a LOTR exhibition pencil! It was a thank-you gift for taking part in a survey for the museum. The computer housing the touch-screen form was set by benches between the gallery and the gift shop, and we were footsore even though the exhibition was small. Standing to wait for the crowd to move on so we could take a closer look at everything is tiring! So we sat, got a pencil, and let the museum know what we thought.

We wish we could have seen more, but the crowds were denser as the day wore on. Overhearing erroneous "facts" from people who thought they knew better does take its toll. And this was a HutCon, so we made sure to see each other and do lots of other things, including taking a walk along the canal area behind the museum. We got to see a lot of ducks, and there are koi in the canal!

We're glad we chose this exhibition as the core of our HutCon, but it's too bad our complaints are basically the same as those who saw the show before us. There were some improvements in lighting and we were able to strategize to avoid the bulk of the crowding. We understand better why this show ended up in smaller cities and venues, and not in places like Los Angeles or New York City. It's a reason to visit Indianapolis!

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