Imagine that you are in the Museum’s galleries, enjoying the latest exhibition. Suddenly, you see something out of the corner of your eye. It’s getting closer. “Wait – is that a shark?” you ask yourself. “Why is there a shark in the Museum?” It’s too late – it’s right behind you! Watch out! Aaaahhhh! Yes, there is a shark loose in the Evansville Museum. In fact, there are two of them. Their names are Reggie and Regina, and luckily they are friendly sharks. These two adorable puppets are actually an activity designed to put a new spin on exploring the Museum. If you are a little kid, the Museum might feel big and imposing. But if you can take your new shark friend with you on a tour, then suddenly everything feels like an adventure.And go on adventures they do! The Museum Sharks are very popular, and not just with little kids. Over the last two years, Reggie and Regina have gone on hundreds of adventures. “We reached a point that Reggie was out on so many adventures that he couldn’t keep up with the demand, so we had to acquire a second shark,” says Museum receptionist Tarrah Kopka. Officially, that second sharkis Reggie’s twin sister, Regina. But why sharks? We had purchased several puppets for use in education programs and for social media posts including a dinosaur and an otter. But when we added the show Sea Monsters in the Koch Immersive Theater, we got Reggie and people loved him. People were asking all the time for more shark photos, and the puppet took on a life of its own.
“We realized we shouldn’t be the only ones taking the photos and thought this could be a fun opportunity for guests to interact with the Museum in a different way,” elaborates Kopka. Guests are encouraged to share their shark adventures on social media by using the hashtags #MuseumShark and #EvansvilleMuseum.
The Museum Sharks have expanded their territory beyond the Museum’s galleries and have recently infiltrated school field trips. A new field trip program called Shark Detective is designed around academic standards for 5th and 6th grade for both Indiana and Kentucky students. Students practice their scientific reasoning and evidence-based argument skills while solving a mystery. We dressed the sharks in costumes and wigs to create the different characters involved in the mystery. It’s hilarious, hands-on and definitely unique.
This new tour was in development in 2018; a “dress rehearsal” resulted in a group of impressed teachers and engaged students. Shark Detective is now available to organizations of all types, including schools, homeschool groups, scout troops and adults. Interested parties should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overall, the Museum Sharks are just one reason why a visit to the Evansville Museum is an experience unlike any other. Are there any downsides? I find I get bitten a lot. This job is much more dangerous than I would have anticipated.