School is out. It’s time to explore, play, and have adventures. The Blanton’s family and community programs team crafted just the thing for anyone who wants make the most out of their visit to the museum— a good old Choose Your Own Adventure story, with a mysterious plot.

The Sea Choose Your Own Adventure Book CoverIf you were a kid in the 80s, you are probably familiar with the Choose Your Own Adventure series. With titles like The Cave of Time (the very first Choose Your Own Adventure book) and Journey Under the Sea (about an expedition to the lost city of Atlantis), they were easy to pick up and hard to put down. In all cases of Choose Your Own Adventure books, readers are confronted with momentous choices. An example from Journey Under the Sea: “If you put up the energy repulsion shields to try and escape the black hole, turn to page 22!” I mean, wouldn’t you want to turn to page 22? Millions of children sure did.

The Blanton’s variation on a Choose Your Own Adventure comes in the form of The Royal Heist, which launched this past Saturday and will be available through the month of June. To write a Choose Your Own Adventure for an art museum takes quite a few steps, from storyline and artwork research, to considerations for how different ages will engage with the story, and how users will traverse walking paths through the museum. Family and community programs fellow Elizabeth Srsic managed the project. “My favorite part about making The Royal Heist was the writing and research. In the evenings I watched the BBC’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot with David Suchet or Murder She Wrote and in the mornings I came into the office and wrote like crazy.”

Map for choose your own adventureOn the wall next to Elizabeth’s desk was a map of the works of art included in Heist with string, arrows, and notes linking them to one another (basically, making her work area look like an art crime scene investigation unit). The entire Blanton education team pitched in by attending rehearsal readings of the script to trouble-shoot and brainstorm plot lines. For example, it was decided that a magnifying glass icon should be added to help very young detectives search for clues.

What all this looks like in practice is a lot of fun, for any age. It starts with checking out the book from Visitor Services. They might hand it over with a knowing wink, “We’re so glad you’re here to help solve the mystery.” With that, you’re off! You read a few quick tips and instructions and start the story. Suddenly, you are not standing in the atrium of the Blanton, but on an island, with the ocean swirling around you. The note on this page of your booklet begins: “Detective, I am entrusting you with a most terrible secret….” The plea comes from Queen Blantina. You, a famed detective, have been hired to put a stop to the robberies that have been plaguing the small country. From here, you have two choices: do you attend a party, or do you search the palace grounds? Depending on what you chose, you go to your next stop, a work of art on the museum’s second floor. You suddenly find yourself both immersed in the mystery, and roaming the galleries, looking at works of art in unexpected ways. The Royal Heist has five possible endings and we are certain that once you get to the end of one path, you will want to start over to experience the rest.

The Royal Heist Choose Your Own Adventure book cover

When asked if she would write another Choose Your Own Adventure, Elizabeth replied, “I think it would be interesting to do a story from the perspective of a creature with no concept of human art and culture. The visitors would have to use their own knowledge of Earth culture to fill in the gaps.” She is not the only Blanton staff member who would like to see a science fiction themed Choose Your Own Adventure come to fruition. (Looks like we have a series in the making!) In addition to the fun-factor of having these for the galleries, the Blanton education team believes this kind of engagement will assist visitors with developing looking and thinking skills that they can use whether they have a Choose Your Own Adventure book in hand, or not.

The Royal Heist can be checked out, for free, from Visitor Services the entire month of June.

Do you have questions about the Blanton’s family and community programs? Email familyprograms@blantonmuseum.org. What would you like the Blanton’s next Choose Your Own Adventure to be? Share with me on twitter: @andreasaenzwill

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