This British-American Life’s Tips for Visiting Museums

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat otherwise known as the Ferris Bueller Painting in my circles.  It proudly hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat otherwise known as the “Ferris Bueller Painting” in my circles. It proudly hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Now, in the States, school is out for a lot of children, and families are going on vacation.  Actually, summer is a prime time for everyone to get away.  Since most people need a little bit of culture in their lives, visiting America’s museums remains a popular pastime, so here I am to give a few tips, and I am actually being serious this time.

1.  Check out the museum’s website before your visit. – You will know what exhibits are open and what artifacts/art are on loan to other museums.  Most importantly, you will be able to prioritize what you want to see that is important to you because…

2.  You will not see everything you want to see.  – Unless the museum is small, it is impossible to take in everything.  If you are going to Washington D.C., you will not be able to digest everything the Smithsonian complex can offer.  You can’t even handle what just the Natural History museum has to offer in one day.  Just accept that now and put in the planning, so you will not set yourself up for disappointment.

3.  Parents, know your children. – If your child’s mental saturation point lasts only two hours, do not try to squeeze another hour out of him or her because you want to see one more thing.  This is where tip #1 comes in.  And don’t be afraid to divide and conquer, if some kids are enjoying themselves in the museum and others have had it.  One more point: it’s great that you want your children to see something new, but make sure you understand a little bit about the subject too.  Just walking up to dinosaur fossils without being able to answer any questions about what they are isn’t going to impress them much.  And older kids can read the plaques too.  They are not stupid.  In fact, it’s a recipe for boredom, if you can’t come up with a good reason why the kids should be there.

4.  Follow the rules, and listen to the security guards.  – The guards are not there to be assholes.  A lot of time and money goes into the preservation of artifacts and art, and they don’t need yutz tourists like us to come along and ruin everything that was done.

5.  Get there before opening time at the really popular museums in the summer – I am a member of the Art Institute of Chicago and a seasoned traveler.  I cannot emphasize how important this rule is.  People want to see the Big Name Artists and the Big Name Paintings.  Special exhibitions only make the problem worse.  If you think you can get into the Musée d’Orsay in Paris after lunch, you must think spaghetti grows on trees.

6.  Now that I mention the Musée d’Orsay, the Impressionist section of any art museum will be a zoo.  People just lurve those wacky Impressionists.  Lord knows, those paintings show up on every coaster, card, magnet, tote bag, print and scarf in the museum gift shops.  I like them, and there was that rebel, individualistic quality about them.  But they were not the be all and end all of art, which brings me too…

7.  Try a different section of a museum that you normally wouldn’t. – If you are not into Roman history, just take a few minutes and look around.  You may be surprised at what you may learn.  If Native American handicrafts aren’t your thing, I think you can at least appreciate the work that goes into them, even if they don’t fit within your style.  Go into the less popular galleries.  They need love too.

11 thoughts on “This British-American Life’s Tips for Visiting Museums

  1. We are spoilt in london as many of our main galleries and museums are free and they are great. But some of my favourite galleries/museums are in small towns. They are often a bit of a mixture of fossils, paintings and bits and bobs from all over the world but have a certain charm. Keswick and kendal museums are great. Nottingham art gallery is well worth a visit.
    you offer great advice – still weeks to go before school holidays begin here!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very good list indeed! We should’ve posted in tandem (I just did a pix series on the Louvre)…then you could’ve illustrated what to do with those children once the saturation point has been reached. LOL. Also quite appreciated seeing you stick up for security guards…..they are always underrated!

    Liked by 1 person

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