Two Brooklyn Comics Are Building a Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Museum in Their Hallway

March 4, 2015 | Prachi Gupta

Wednesday afternoon marks the final 24 hours of a now-viral Kickstarter campaign to erect a museum for figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan in a Brooklyn apartment hallway. With the modest goal of $75 having been met and far surpassed, the museum is already underway.

The museum’s proprietors are Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen, two comics who met through UCB last year and are now roommates. They conceived of the idea after they watched ESPN’s spellbinding 30 for 30 documentary, The Price of Gold, on Netflix. “[Matt] called me and said, ‘You have to come home immediately and watch an amazing documentary on Tonya Harding,'” said Olen. “We were very, very moved by it.”


The documentary demystifies what turned into a sensationalized international story that forever altered the sport of figure skating: The 1994 incident in which U.S Olympian Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by an associate of Harding, her teammate. Like many American millennials, Olen and Harkins were kids at the time, but it became as much a part of the cultural ephemera of their childhood as Jurassic Park or pogs. The documentary adds essential context to the story that a generation of children — now adults — thought they already knew. Borrowing from Bojack Horseman, the campaign jokes, “Part of the museum team’s research has been the realization that everyone is either a Tonya or a Nancy (if you’re thinking about it, you’re a Tonya…)”

The Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum officially opens on April 18th. It spans two 25-foot-long walls in an awkward, tight space barely wide enough for two people in an apartment that has no living room. Originally meant to feature simple blown-up images of Harding and Kerrigan, the exhibit will now include copies of musicals, plays and artwork donated by fans. Journalist Lois Elfman, who covered figure skating in the 1990s, even contributed original artifacts from the championship events. An artist designed custom buttons and T-shirts that will be available for sale at the museum’s gift shop. Olen and Harkins say that Nanette Burstein, the documentary’s director, wants to stop by to see the finished collection.


Harkins, who works at a museum, is painting the walls black to make it feel more authentic. “We want it to be an experience because it’s a long hallway, but you can still walk through it in like eight seconds,” he said. They hope to install iPads to play the figure skaters’s routines. In the spirit of the film, they will also reconstruct timelines of Harding’s and Kerrigan’s skating careers and contextualize that with “other things that were happening in the world.” Unlike the documentary, those “other things” will be whatever it is that Olen and Harkins find funny and interesting, like when “Bette Midler won the Emmy.”

Because this is a product of the internet era, visits to the museum will be arranged like “online dates,” Olen joked. “Basically, you email us and we can verify who you are online, and that you’re not gonna hurt us, then you can come in,” she said.

The museum will be up for the next year, until their lease is up. Although Olen and Harkins say on the campaign page that they will “quit their jobs for a year and dedicate themselves to the museum,” unless they raise considerably more than $1,556, it looks like they’ll still have to keep their day jobs. Regardless, they confirmed to ANIMAL that “for the next year, this is our lives.”

(Photos: Matt Harkins, Viviana Olen)