Posing in front of your own phone lens, duck-faced with two fingers in the air, you make the most beautiful snapshots, gifs and boomerangs in the most spectacular spaces. From a cotton candy pink marshmallow pool and a three-dimensional painting, to a mirror maze and a room completely turned upside down. Welcome to the ‘Instagram Museum’ phenomenon. An interactive experience where it’s not Vincent’s self-portrait or an original Rembrandt that shines in the spotlight, but you. Literally.
Within the wondrous walls of this selfie eldorado, your wildest Insta dreams come to life. This playground is therefore also a huge hit. Especially among adults. Museum Voorlinden was secretly the forerunner of this trend with its famous Swimming Pool. Still, some museums are doing everything they can to suppress the selfie urge. For example, the Van Gogh Museum came up with separate selfie walls and in America you even get in trouble with Disney when you wave around a selfie stick for a photo with your beloved Disney character. One thing is certain: you can no longer ignore the current selfie culture. And these ‘experience museums’ are cleverly responding to this. But: can we really call them ‘museums’? Why are the selfie museums so popular? And what does this mean for traditional museums, such as the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh? To find out, we talked to the makers.
WONDR Experience was founded by Sarah Mendes, who thought it was time for a place where adults can express their creativity.
How did you come up with the idea for WONDR?
“I’m a marketer and I’ve worked a lot with the millennial audience. I’ve been researching the experience trend for a while and the millennials are known for wanting to experience much more than buy. Many different experiences have been developed worldwide with a focus on this generation. I went to investigate; a month in America and a month in Asia. For example, I made a mix of different concepts that I encountered. I have certainly included the Instagram factor in this, which is also very clear when you are here. Everything is super colourful and Instagrammable. But what we have done very differently at WONDR is to create that playground structure.”
“Pink Beach is WONDR’s new pop-up beach bar: a surreal tropical oasis designed for summer fun. Experience the magical vibes of the pink beach while sipping a cocktail or taking a dip in the ball pool. Gather your friends and raise a glass between the palm trees on the sunny terrace.”
You deliberately don’t call WONDR an Instagram museum, but an ‘experience.’ Why?
“We don’t really focus on Instagram and taking photos at all. We see WONDR as a playground for adults, where we create a 360-degree experience with interactive spaces full of playful (tangible) elements. Like our marshmallow pool. It’s certainly nice for the photo, but we designed the marshmallows ourselves, for example. They are soft ‘squishies’ that feel and smell like real marshmallows. In this way we try to create a complete experience. We see the photos and videos more as a souvenir of your visit. If you want to enjoy the experience without a phone, that’s also possible. We can email you the photos afterwards. With WONDR, we want to let adults play the way they used to. Without boundaries, limits, shame or fear of what others think of you.”
Do you call WONDR a museum?
“No, we are certainly not a museum. A museum has a completely different function; preserving and displaying art. That is not the intention of WONDR at all. We do work with young, local artists for every space. For example, we transformed a room into one large colouring book, which we had drawn by an Amsterdam artist. You can colour the walls with pens that are 1.5 metres long.”
“In addition to WONDR Experience and Pink Beach, Roller Dreams recently opened, a hypnotic world of glitter and neon where you can be transported on roller skates to the roller-skating scene of the 80s with its vibrant energy and dreamy looks.”
What do you think is the difference with ‘real’ Instagram museums?
“We were the first experience museum in the Netherlands. Now there are some competitors in the market, but they focus more on creating content – something we are definitely not involved in. For example, we don’t have changing rooms. We have deliberately chosen this because we do not want to be a photo studio like most Instagram museums, with well-thought-out spaces full of photo opportunities, specifically designed for content creators. WONDR is for everyone, whether you are active on social media or not. It’s about having fun with your friends. The photos and videos you take here are more fun memories.” What feeling do you want to evoke in the visitor? “Our intention was always to be able to offer a sense of ‘escapism’, to live in a dream, to get into a completely different vibe. And it worked. The experience we create here together with our team is unique. Everyone is trained to get people into a happy and playful mindset, but the order of the rooms is also constructed in a specific way. The level of interaction builds up slowly, until you’re comfortable enough to shamelessly dive into the ball pool. You cannot just copy that experience by placing some items in a few rooms.”
WONDR Experience is constantly evolving. What’s new this year?
“Pink Beach is a pop-up beach where the sun always shines. A tropical oasis with beach bar and sun terrace with beach chairs, pink sand, tropical palm trees and a huge ball pit. Mainly intended for an adult audience. In addition, we recently opened Roller Dreams, a roller skate experience where music and dance come together in an imaginative disco paradise.”
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