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Another Look: Great Museums

July 21st, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Last week, Great Museums executive producer, Marc Doyle, introduced the series in the Hulu Blog. This week, the show’s co-creator (and Marc’s wife), Chesney Doyle picks up the story. If you haven’t already, go behind the scenes at some of our nation’s finest institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and (my favorite) the Baseball Hall of Fame, and share your thoughts in the discussions below each video. — Rebecca Harper

Well, we were newly married and decided to work together so that we could be together, which was a really crazy idea. Thirteen years later, we still work together and we’re still married. That’s really the headline news, as any couple in business together can tell you! Oh … and we have 11-month old twins.

When I met Marc, he had been in television since 1968 and had won many awards, including a national Emmy and a Peabody Award, mostly for his executive career in television news, and later as a producer and reporter of technology, health and business news. I didn’t know any of that. He was my neighbor and I just thought he was an interesting guy and he had a really cute bird dog, a Springer Spaniel, named Sonny. I tried to set Marc up with all my girlfriends, but he was a committed bachelor and totally devoted to Sonny. So, finally, after striking out as a matchmaker, I decided I would simply have to marry him myself, which was the best thing I ever did.

Well, back to the television part of this story: To start our new business, which became Echo Pictures and Great Museums TV, we sat down to think up some new television ideas that would represent a marriage of our backgrounds and interests. I’ve always been intrigued by museums. I love history and there is no better time-travel experience than a museum.

In the late ’90s, when we were working on the idea for what would become Great Museums, there was no museum-driven programming on television other than the wonderful Sister Wendy who did specials about art.

Put your face six inches away from Van Gogh’s Wheatfield and Cypresses (at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art) and see the seeds — which were blowing in the wind the day he painted it — stuck in the paint that was applied by Van Gogh’s own hand. You are in that wheat field with Van Gogh. When you visit the nation’s finest museums, there are countless moments like that, moments when it suddenly occurs to you that you are mere inches from a piece of history.

The idea was to get viewers to look differently at museums — and therefore to look differently at our lives, our histories, our world. We wanted take viewers behind the scenes to meet the experts face to face. Then, we wanted viewers to go find the museum experience in their own back yards. Maybe your local museum experience is the special collections department at your local library. Or the local historical society. Or a nearby National Park. Through Great Museums, we wanted people to have deeper connections with their own communities and to better understand the experiences of others.

Marc and I try to never miss an opportunity to share a “Eureka” moment. That’s what we call it when one of our brilliant museum experts explains something so plainly that it changes the way you think. It causes you to look at the world differently. Great Museums episodes are filled with “Eureka” moments because the stars of our shows — the curators and other museum experts — have devoted their lives to understanding the history, the art and the science that they showcase.

Coincidentally, the “Eureka Foundation” is the name of the private foundation that underwrites Great Museums. Without the Eureka Foundation, there would be no Great Museums on TV or on Hulu and certainly no behind-the-scenes “Eureka” moments to share with our audience. Our relationship with the Eureka Foundation has been a true partnership, dedicated to using the power of television and new media to provide the highest level of inspirational fact-based content to viewers. Great Museums proves that fact is better than fiction! — Chesney Doyle, Executive Producer, Great Museums

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