Sideshow Podcast: Kickstarting the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum | WBEZ
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Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

Sideshow Podcast: Kickstarting the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum

If your creative concept is original, quirky, and crazy enough, it will kill on Kickstarter. There was the Robocop statue, the potato salad, and now the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum

Best friends and comedy writers Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen were six and seven years old when Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked with a baton on behalf of her arch-rival, Tonya Harding, in 1994. The following federal investigation (which would reveal Harding's then-husband helped plan the attack) was one of the biggest sports stories of the century.

Harkins and Olen weren't fully aware of the scope of the story until watching the ESPN documentaryThe Price of Gold, which humanizes both athletes. Then they were hooked, and surprised how little their peers remembered of the controversial events. "I made out with a 25-year-old and he had no idea what I was talking about," Olen says. "That really impressed on us the fact that there's a whole generation that doesn't remember." 

The two decided to open a museum in their shared apartment -- they already had a perfect useless hallway, all they needed was money. They turned to Kickstarter, asking for "$75 to print photos at Duane Reade." They raised over two thousand dollars. More impressive still, they collected dozens of artifacts and works of tribute art from Kerrigan and Harding fans. 

The museum has a sense of irony, but its true nature shifted to a more sincere place once the art and artifacts started pouring into the curators' Brooklyn apartment. Harkins and Olen invested their Kickstarter funds into lights, paint, and various fixtures to properly present their rich collection, from dioramas and figurines to cross stitches and autographed memorabilia from the two figure skaters. The museum became a tribute to the triumphant and tragic stories of two world-class athletes. "These are people who are alive and have been haunted by this for so long," Olen says. "The only thing we're making fun of is ourselves."

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