Are Disney theme parks like museums?

October 24, 2011, 5:13 PM · There are many ways to look at Disney parks. Some like them just for the rides. Some like the characters. Some just walk around for the atmosphere, or the food, or shows...the list goes on. One of the ignored, but truly fascinating facets of Disney themes parks is the museum aspect.

Did I just say museum?

Hall of Presidents display
An original dress from former First Lady Nancy Reagan, on display in the Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents lobby, along with other White House memorabilia.

You bet. And I don't mean that some of the rides are so old the belong in one, or that so many items of Disneyana are extremely collectible. Disney has collected rare antiques, steam engines, artifacts and movie props and hid them all over the parks. Did you know that a set of chairs in the lobby of the Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios are actual antiques from the renaissance? Or that all of the mining equipment decorating the Big Thunder coasters are real antique mining machines? Or how about those penny arcade games, or orchestrium, or lamp poles on Main Street?

Even within the parks are mini museums. Things like One Man's Dream, or the stave church in Norway, or the amazing display on American invention in the American Pavilion or the presidential treasures in the Lobby of the Hall of Presidents. If you think about it, Disney's Hollywood Studios is one giant museum of film props hidden all over, in and out of the Back Lot Tour.

This all stems from Disney's effort to make their experience as close to the real thing. Such devotion to detail and preservation of wonderful items is not common in the theme park industry.

There could be a thick book with the history of all the integrated historic collectibles. Think about this next time you walk down Main Street, or fly by some mining machinery, or wish you could sit in that chair in the Tower of Terror lobby.

Enjoy the museums.

Replies (7)

October 24, 2011 at 6:00 PM · Nice write up! I agree that Disney Theme Parks try to preserve things that would otherwise be lost to the obsession with "newer" things. I'm not saying that attractions should never change, but new doesn't always equal better. Stitch's Not-So-Great Escape comes to mind.
October 24, 2011 at 9:13 PM · Great Story!

I think the theme of Disney is that many attractions have an educational aspect.

October 25, 2011 at 4:52 PM · Islands of Adventure is kind of like a museum, too! The curved palm trees in Seuss Landing were actually curved by Hurricane Andrew, and one of the broomsticks in the Three Broomsticks sign was actually from one of the HP movies.
October 25, 2011 at 5:34 PM · That's not much for Universal. They have the Lucy tribute, which is nice but could be bigger. there are a few things in the Horror Make up Show lobby.

None of that is to the extent that Disney does. Disney has historical items everywhere from the petrified wood stump, to Chinese exhibits etc.

October 27, 2011 at 2:24 PM · Awesome stuff. Everyonce in a while i need somthing to remind me of the extra charm that Disney has. What gives depth to the parks are things like these details or the exhibits that you can see on repeat visits. It gives us time to relax, slow down and cool in a long hectic trip.

Not to bash, but Universal really deosn't have this. Or six flags, or ceder fair etc,

October 27, 2011 at 6:13 PM · To be fair, Universal Studios Hollywood blows away Disney on the quantity of museum-quality sights and memorabilia, being a nearly 100-year-old working movie studio. So I wouldn't automatically elevate Disney above that park.
October 28, 2011 at 5:01 PM · Disney is all about the little things and museum quality artifacts are part of the experience.

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