There comes a time where we must all pick a side: Knicks or Nets, Marvel or DC, Jacob or Edward. A unique exhibit inside a Williamsburg apartment is asking us a similar question, one that hasn’t been asked in over 20 years: are you a Tonya or a Nancy?
The Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum is the brainchild of two Brooklyn comedians, Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen. The duo came up with the idea of transforming their long entrance hallway into a museum exhibit after viewing the ESPN 30 For 30 documentary The Price of Gold. The documentary tells the history of one of the most bizarre rivalries in sports history. The two rivals were Olympic pro skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, arguably the worlds best figure skaters at the time. The two shared a common passion, but little else. Tonya came from a broken home and grew up in poverty; Nancy seemed to have the perfect life and was seemingly everyone’s ideal of an Olympic athlete. The two competed head to head in numerous tournaments around the country, however, their rivalry would take a dark turn on On January 4th, 1994.
For those who are unaware, after an Olympic practice session in Detroit, Michigan, Nancy Kerrigan was struck in the knee with a ASC Baton (nightstick). On televisions around the world, people saw Kerrigan holding her knee screaming “why?” over and over again. Kerrigan would recover and go on to win a silver medal, but Harding’s career suffered immensly. After it was found out that Harding’s now ex-husband Jeff Gillooly hired Harding’s bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt to break Kerrigan’s leg. Tonya (hounded by the media for weeks before the Olympics) finished eighth and was banned from the sport shortly after. The documentary puts Harding in a much better light, and shows a new generation of people the circus that was the Tonya vs. Nancy phenomenon.
The idea alone is enough to get people to the door, however, these two are performers, and understand that the museum must do justice to the careers of these two world class athletes. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Ebay purchases and fan submissions, the museum is filled with items that both show the timelines of the two rivals. Most of the Kerrigan items are off to one side, while the Harding ones are on the other. The pieces of memorabilia and fan-art with them together, comes in the middle of the hallway, where the rivalry and its bizarre controversy was at its highest point.
To visit the museum, you will have to make an appointment, however, the two are throwing a opening celebration gala on April 18th at Standard Toykraft, a performing arts theater in Williamsburg. The gala will feature creatives who have become inspired, in one way or another by the incident and the opening tour of the museum.
Matt and Viviana will be the first to tell you that they have no interest in sports, so any sports-related questions from us or anyone will be met with shrugs. They do however, have an interest in the human drama that appears in sports. Sports are more than just data and statistics. The stories that appear in the history of any sport can bring drama, tragedy, mythology, and betrayal, all things you’ll see in any Shakespeare adaptation. So that just leaves one question: Are you a Tonya or a Nancy?
He’s pretty sure he’s a Tonya, but people keep convincing him he’s a Nancy. To help him make a decision, contact the author on Twitter @ChrisLInoa