Rediscovered Stories: Rattlesnake Tweets

 by Carolyn Bernier


What [does] it feel like to be the world’s best-known museum button? @MPMsnake1
@CarolynBarolyn I’m happy to have rattled my way into so many hearts.2

-Twitter conversation between the author and the Milwaukee Public Museum’s rattlesnake button, August 24 and 29, 2016.

The rattlesnake button at Milwaukee Public Museum is locally famous. Since 1966, the rattlesnake button has existed on the side of a plastic boulder next to the Indian Plain Hunts exhibit.3 One presses the button, and a snake in the corner of the giant diorama shakes its rattle, which was once part of a living snake. It may not immediately seem obvious why a button like that has attained fame. However, the fact that the button is not immediately visible to visitors seems to have given those in the know a form of social currency. People, especially children, talk proudly about their discovery, even if it is only a half discovery.

It seems only like a half discovery because online articles abound about the snake and a local Fox affiliate filmed a segment focused on the famed button.4  It is widely discussed, and hints abound as to its whereabouts. In 2004, it was dubbed “one of Milwaukee’s worst-kept secrets” by a writer for On Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s arts and culture magazine.5 The secret has been further leaked in the twelve years since; the Internet seems to have destroyed the mystery a little further; if you poke around, you can find sites and videos that directly tell you its location (including the local Fox affiliate’s segment, which was posted online in 2014).

As could be predicted for a much-conversed-about exhibit, the snake button tweets. Its Twitter handle is @MPMsnake. Jenni Tetzlaf, the Public Relations Director at the museum, composes the tweets in the rattlesnake’s peppy, quirky voice. As of the time of writing, 205 followers enjoy the conversations of the rattlesnake button. Its Twitter feed mostly informs of the goings-on at the museum; @MPMsnake’s happily rattling off fun tweets that merge schtick and MPM news. In response to an interactive mystery exhibit, the snake wrote a typical tweet: “I better rattle over and check out the [sic] what #Wisconsin secrets I can uncover! Milwaukee Public Museum  #RattlesnakeSleuth.”6 The feed is an entertaining way to keep the public informed of the many new exhibits, new tours, and various uses of the museum (the feed even shows a picture of a bride and groom posing in front of the exhibit).7 

The Milwaukee Public Museum itself has a unique identity—it is full of secrets. Other half-hidden sights in the museum include a second rattlesnake button, a howler monkey sound button, and a taxidermied cat tucked into a niche, whose eyes reflect the light of a cell phone.8, 9 One imagines that the exhibits create the kind of buzz that only the discovery of something hidden brings.

I recently interviewed the rattlesnake button about its position at the museum, to allow the button to speak in its own words:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

1. Carolyn Bernier, Twitter post, August 24, 2016. 9:19 AM, http://twitter.com/carolynbarolyn.

2. Milwaukee Public Museum Snake, Twitter post, August 29, 2016, 11:34 AM, https://twitter.com/MPMsnake.

3. “Diorama Interpreter Volunteer – Bison Hunt,” Milwaukee Public Museum online, accessed October 17, 2016, https://www.mpm.edu/node/12332.

4. “In search of secret buttons at the Milwaukee Public Museum,” Fox6Now.com, last updated March 4, 2014, http://fox6now.com/2014/03/04/in-search-of-secret-buttons-at-the-milwaukee-public-museum/.

5. Jeff Sherman, “Snake button’s secret still charms Milwaukee,” Onmilwaukee.com, accessed October 18, 2016, http://onmilwaukee.com/buzz/articles/snakebutton.html.

6. Milwaukee Public Museum Snake, Twitter post, October 6, 2016, 8:49 AM, https://twitter.com/MPMsnake.

7. Milwaukee Public Museum Snake, Twitter Post, August 12, 2016 12:36 PM, http://twitter.com/MPMsnake.

8. “In Search of Secret Buttons,”  http://fox6now.com/2014/03/04/in-search-of-secret-buttons-at-the-milwaukee-public-museum/.

9. “Making-of the Streets of Old Milwaukee – Reimagined,” YouTube video by Milwaukee Public Museum, 6:44, Milwaukee Public Museum online, accessed October 17, 2016, https://www.mpm.edu/plan-visit/exhibitions/permanent-exhibits/first-floor-exhibits/streets-old-milwaukee.

 

Carolyn Bernier
Editor-in-Chief



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