Will Ferrell, Mark Bradford and Gary Baseman are among those being featured in the #HowDoYouMuseum video campaign launched Thursday by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the La Brea Tar Pits.
The Ferrell videos feature the comedian as a scientist in a tar-stained lab coat answering questions from the public — and inevitably fumbling.
"How did the ground sloth protect itself?" he is asked. To which a discombobulated Ferrell replies: "With confidence and a healthy attitude. The creature had great self esteem, unlike the mammoth who had a lot of body issues."
The interactive campaign invites people to share their museum experiences and inspirations online with the #HowDoYouMuseum hashtag on social media platforms. The idea is to underscore the museum's growing digital presence at a time when many museums across the country are working to gain a foothold in the online world.
"Over the last 10 years there has been a major transformation from being a darker, dustier place to having brand new galleries, gardens and programs that are really bringing light into the museum," says Cynthia Wornham, the Natural History Museum's vice president of marketing and communications. "We're just beginning this campaign, and we see it as something that may have legs for several years."
That's because recruiting the celebrity talent for the videos happened organically, Wornham says. In each case, the people who donated their time to make a video had a deep, personal connection to the museum or the Tar Pits. For example, Wornham sat next to Ferrell and his wife at a dinner for the museum and Ferrell talked about how he used to love coming to the tar pits.
Similarly, Baseman told Wornham that the tar pits have served as artistic inspiration to him over the years and that he often spends time creating his art on the museum grounds. Bradford grew up in L.A. and came to the Natural History Museum as a child.
The launch also includes science communicator Cara Santa Maria, and the lineup for future videos is growing: Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte, artist Catherine Opie, author D.J. Waldie and KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez, among others.
"We're looking at the idea of 'museum' as a verb," says Wornham, adding that the museum partnered with branding studio Imaginary Forces and Guru Media Solutions to help bring the creative and social media aspects of the campaign to life. "We are inviting the public and the influencers to share their videos with their followers and we'll have a feed on our website of what people are sending in."
The sky is the limit, she says, so get creative.