“Across the United States in the nation’s most revered institutions our celebrated history is on display. Wondrous treasures from the past…bizarre relics. But behind every amazing artifact is another tale to be told. And a secret waiting to be revealed. These are the mysteries at the museum.”
Mysteries at the Museum: Season One is a Travel Channel show and is comprised of twelve episodes they call volumes.
Each volume tackles six separate artifacts which averages out to about seven minutes per item. As such there’s a definite lightness to the series. It’s as though you’re at a museum listening to a docent going on about an exhibit before moving on to the next in the tour.
The segments combine interviews, stock footage, recreations and photos to give a brief history of the item at hand. Tying it all together is narrator Jay Thomas (The Santa Clause 2), whose game show ready voice provides the tone for the series…the less than dramatic, yet still serious feel which is important to make the series work.
I’m guessing they were going for a continuation of the “Mysterious” angle but there’re no episode descriptions anywhere, merely “Volume One” and so on. Thus so you know what you’re getting I’m spoiling the episodes with brief descriptions of the artifacts presented.
Alcatraz heads, Fejee mermaid, Enigma device, Dymaxion house, Apollo 13 box, Maryland Mona Lisa
Saber-tooth cat, Bockscar plane that bombed Nagasaki, Cardiff Giant, Pullman car train tragedy of 1910, Wooden dummy at Roswell, George Washington’s dentures
Patty Hearst’s gun, Harvard mastodon, Humboldt squid, Klaus Fuchs’ security badge, Fire engine from 1906 San Francisco, Ellis Island literacy card
How Houdini died, Josephine Ford plane from the North Pole, Japanese ringed balloon bombs, Democratic national convention protest flag, Handle-less hatchet of Lizzie Borden crime scene, Adlai Stevenson’s attaché case
Bonnie and Clyde’s rifle, The Iwo Jima flag, Aerotrain, Deep sea angler fish, Frederick Cook’s diary, Captain Joseph Kittinger’s harness
The H4 Hercules aka the Spruce Goose airplane, “Sue” the T-rex skeleton, President McKinley’s shirt, Gardner Museum picture frames, 1889 Johnstown PA flood pocket watch, The Slinky
Watergate tape recorder, Radithor bottle, U-Boat 505, Lindburgh baby ransom note, Pat Garrett’s Colt Thunderer Revolver, Greensboro, NC Woolworth’s lunch counter
Theodore Roosevelt’s glasses case and manuscript pages, Eliot Ness’ postcards, The ‘Spirit of America’ car, Titanic telegram, Montgomery, AL bus, ‘Bigfoot’ tooth
Theremin device, Piece of Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Silly putty, The Guanajuato mummies, Tree from Mt. Saint Helens’ 1980 explosion, U.S.S. Cyclops supply box
Engine part from 1945 Empire State Building plane crash, John Dillinger death mask, 1907 Thomas Flyer car, Bronze bell from the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, Frisbie pie plate, Metal staircase from the fall of Saigon
Skull and Bones letter, Tesla’s AC motor, Solid gold DeLorean, Kamikaze debris, Pot from Seattle fire of 1889, Curtis JN4 airplane
Robert the doll, Meuse-Argonne Offensive FT-17 tank, Alan Shepard lunar golf club, The Unabomber’s cabin, Jesse James’ holster, Concorde plane
As you watch Mysteries at the Museum: Season One you will soon recognize the recycling of footage, locations, and commentators. It’s economical but I can’t help wonder why all the artifacts from a certain museum, like the United States Air Force Museum, would be spread out over different episodes instead of having an episode devoted to all of them together. A quick glance through the items in each episode makes it clear they don’t relate to each other and thus Thomas’ narration is truly the only thing which ties them together and makes the episode cohesive.
But while it may not make sense to have the items spread out the way they are, it’s educational fun nonetheless. You get a succinct history, a “mystery” which sometimes stretches the term, and just enough drama to keep it all interesting. Each episode is like a trip through your local museum but to the less-visited sections. And that’s the series’ charm: giving you insight into things you’d likely never know about otherwise.
The transfer is better than mere broadcast. There’s a low level of noise throughout and at the blackest levels there was an occasional blue overlay. The audio is fine, a bit flat but you’re not going to be watching this to test out your sound system.
There are no extras.