A Life on Exhibit

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Imagine strolling by a replica of the Wrights brothers’ plane, pausing to catch dinner in a coal mine shaft and then curling up in a sleeping bag inside the only German submarine in the U.S. That’s just a day in the life of Kevin Byrne.

Byrne is the winner of Month at the Museum 2, an encore to last year’s popular attraction where a contestant lives in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry for 30 days. After moving in on Oct. 19, Byrne, who was one of six finalists, is splitting his time in his “Cube” on display for museum goers and participating in demonstrations throughout the museum.

Byrne grew up in Virginia, lives in Chicago and holds a 2010 graduate degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University. He is blogging about his adventures throughout the expansive museum, answering visitors' and web site viewers' questions and taking suggestions on what he should do.

Kevin Byrne greets a group of children through a window of the "Cube" on the main floor of the Museum of Science and Industry, home until Nov. 18. (Photo by JB Spector, Museum of Science and Industry) Kevin Byrne greets a group of children through a window of the "Cube" on the main floor of the Museum of Science and Industry, home until Nov. 18. (Photo by JB Spector, Museum of Science and Industry) Why did you want to move into a museum?
This is something that people just don’t get to do in real life. You know, to be able to jump into an adventure and have an opportunity to live in a museum for a month, it is exciting. It is so different from my real life. And, I love science. In high school, I attended a magnet school for math and science. I was a biology major as an undergrad the College of William and Mary. I don’t get to use a lot of science as a marketing analyst so this is really exciting. I can’t wait to roam the halls at night when it is just me and the security guards.

The museum covers more than 14 acres of floor space. And, as I understand it, you basically have keys to the kingdom to public spaces and anything behind the scenes. What are you most excited about doing?
I am entering the museum almost with a blank slate and just a lot of excitement. I came a few years ago for a visit, but I haven’t spent much time here. This will really be a pioneer experience. So much of this experience is about the unknown, so I am ready to ride this ride wherever it goes.

And, the museum has set up some things for me to do. I will be visiting exhibits with the public and participate in demonstrations throughout the museum. Later today, I get to go light some things on fire during a demonstration.

You will be living in the museum, around the clock for 30 days. What about the everyday tasks? Where will you sleep, eat, do laundry?
It’s funny because the museum has set me up with a plush environment. Everything is furnished with a hip, colorful vibe. During the day, I will be spending a lot of time in the Cube, which is that giant clear room in the atrium. I also get a private room where there is a bed, closet for my clothes and things like that for night. They had a nickname called “The Nest” last year but I want to come up with my own name. Also, I have a sleeping bag so I can camp out in the exhibits when I want to. I am really excited to spend the night in the U505 submarine.

As far as food, I eat breakfast and lunch in the food court. But, snacks and dinners are catered by Whole Foods, which is really nice. It is going to be tough to go back to my regular lifestyle after this and have to cook and go grocery shopping again. Oh, and my laundry is delivered to me once a week.

This experience requires you will be removed from your normal schedule, from your family and your job as a marketing analyst with Razorfish. How supportive was your work, family and friends?
My supervisor actually told me about the contest. I don’t know if they thought I would take it seriously. And, after I found out that I won, they went from a bit of reluctance to full-fledged, 100 percent support. I think they realized what a cool opportunity this would be for me, even if that means I am not going to be at work every day.

My friends and family can come visit me during general admission hours along with the public. They let me out to get sunshine on the front steps but I won’t be leaving the museum unless it is organized by the staff for an event or school trip visit. So, it is definitely a different experience than my normal life.

You will be blogging throughout the day and posting videos of your adventures. How focused are you on the multimedia aspect of the experience?
Keeping a two-way communication with the public is a big focus of mine. [The museum] gave me a camera, laptop and iPad so I have a lot of ways to connect with others. People can follow the blog but I am also posting on Facebook and Twitter. If people have suggestions or questions, I will try to respond to as many as possible and make this as interactive as possible.

My main hope is that my excitement is obvious to the readers and museum goers. Whether it gets them to visit the Museum of Science and Industry or another museum or just appreciating the science that is around us every day. That’s the goal.

Kevin will be living in the Museum of Science and Industry from Oct. 19 to Nov. 17. You can follow his adventures in person at the musuem, on his blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@msikevin).

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