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“The Hunger Games: The Exhibition”

There’s a lot of me in this week o’ Hunger Games on Out of the Box. That is likely because I am a giant fan girl. And probably because I have more time on my hands than fellow fangirls Katie and Shoshana.

But also because I was lucky enough to go to “The Hunger Games: The Exhibition” at Discovery Times Square!

I was in NYC this past weekend to see Sleep No More (a very cool, not-quite-right-for-this-blog experience) and somehow managed to convince my trip-mate (who is not familiar with The Hunger Games franchise at all) that a visit to the exhibit was a good plan. I don’t know exactly how I did this. I suspect it’s because he’s very, very nice. I may have also thrown a tantrum.

However it came to be, I went to the Hunger Games exhibit. And it was fabulous.

Split into seven different sections (with an introductory video featuring both Elizabeth Banks and her character Effie Trinket, plus a gift shop at the end), this show beautifully weaves together Suzanne Collins’s inspirations from history and philosophy; costumes, props, and sets; and detailed explanations of the actual process of making the films. The website states that the exhibit is a “dynamic exploration of the art, science, pageantry, and history of the world of Panem” — and boy, is it ever.

It is remarkable how incredibly well crafted this exhibit is. Collins’s inspirations for the world of Panem are explored in depth on placards throughout the show, giving histories and explanations of how classical philosophies molded the world Katniss and company inhabit. Panem is examined as a real, existing culture that can be discussed and interpreted. Each section — “District 12,” “Tribute Train,” “The Capitol,” “Making the Games,” “District 13,” and “Katniss’s Journey” — builds upon this extended discussion of history and theory, showing costumes, props, and sets in context with interactive elements to pull the viewer more deeply into the experience.

Train

on the Tribute Train

Wedding dress

Katniss’s wedding dress (in both its original and Mockingjay incarnations) from Catching Fire

Visitors can explore the arena using a panel much like the ones used by Gamemakers in the movie, or they can maneuver around an interactive map of Panem showing an America that has been through war, ecological disasters, and a division into districts. (I have been wanting to see a map like this one since completing the first book.)

tracker jacker

a Gamemaker’s-eye view of the tracker jacker muttations

The technology and cleverness involved in the creation of this exhibit is not only beyond my comprehension but also beyond my ability to explain. Cinna’s notebook (a book-like prop with blank pages) somehow has visuals projected onto the blank screens of each page that change when the visitor turns the page; it also plays videos. Visitors can learn to fight from additional videos, make their own propos (starring themselves — my trip-mate spent a lot of time laughing at my picture in my propo), and get a lesson in knot tying.

There are also numerous polling-type booths spread throughout the exhibit, asking visitors where they stand on certain issues: Would you want Peeta’s peace or Katniss’s revolution? Would your act of bravery be generosity (throwing bread to the starving) or sacrifice (taking a sibling’s place in the games)? After choosing, visitors can wander around to the back of the booth and see how they match up with other people who had taken the poll. I found that I was (unsurprisingly) in the minority for every single poll. But hell no, I’m not going into the games for you. Uh-uh. Nope.

And consistently present is the discussion of the world of Panem and the analytical interpretation of the Hunger Games series as literature. My favorite placard discussed Cinna and his role in the rebellion: how his designs were forms of sedition and how Snow’s popularization of Katniss’s style (through Capitol Couture and dictating that she wear her wedding dress in her pre-Quarter Quell interview) undermined both Cinna’s work and the rebellion itself.

The last section in the exhibit was the Fan Gallery, which pleased me to no end. A placard earlier in the exhibit details how “the digital magazine Capitol Couture highlighted the fashions and fashionable citizens of the Capitol, drawing audiences in with seductive glamour.” I love how the advertising for the movies bled into the real world, creating real things that once were only imagination. People can actually buy makeup from the Capitol Couture line (creepy, but also kinda cool). There are car commercials interrupted by rebellion announcements from Beetee. The Capitol Twitter account was “taken over” to push the rising of the Mockingjay. There’s even merchandise from “Peeta’s Bakery” available to purchase in the store. The Fan Gallery is not only a space showcasing fans’ love for the Hunger Games franchise; it also tangibly brings these elements of Katniss’s world into our own. The meta-ness of it all!

Placard

a placard about digital magazine Capitol Couture

The exhibit ends January 3, 2016, so go now while you still can! It’s easily one of the best museum experiences I’ve ever had.

Motto

This post is part of our Hunger Games Week. Click on the tags Hunger Games Week and Hunger Games to see all posts. Click for more on children’s/YA lit–related exhibits.

Siân Gaetano About Siân Gaetano

Siân Gaetano is assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @KidLitChick.

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