Most families seeking to include some level of culture or education into a vacation find themselves doing so by way of museums. There are also some museums so unique, or so famous in their own right that they practically demand a pilgrimage when visiting their home city. Sites like the Louvre in Paris, or The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg come to mind as “must see” museums.
If those are the reasons why we visit museums, what about how to visit a museum? A recent article in the New York Times turned our heads as it offered some exceptional advice on museum patronage that would be especially beneficial to families.
The main message? SLOW DOWN and enjoy a museum. Take a more relaxed pace, accept that you won’t see it all, stop taking so many pictures and actually appreciate the art (or history, science, etc.) with your own eyes.
The author of the piece, Stephanie Rosenbloom remarks that the average visitor will spend about 2 hours in a museum and despite crowds and distance to cover, will dart around the building trying to take in as much as possible. Statistically, travellers will spend 15-30 seconds observing a given piece before moving on, placing their emphasis on clearing a room and laying eyes on everything, rather than understanding anything.
Family Trip to a Museum? Take Your Time and Enjoy the Sights
Museum-going is not a contest! You don’t “win” by seeing the most, and trying to cram an entire building into an hour or so is most likely an hour that could have been better spent. Ms. Rosenbloom points out that many see museums as exhausting ordeals, and that this may more accurately be a product of the way visitors treat them as opposed to the museums themselves. Covering a mile’s worth of corridors and eyeballing 200 paintings is an ordeal, however, gently strolling a small wing and enjoying a handful of exhibits can be an inspiring and even rejuvenating process.
So how do you best enjoy a museum? However you want! This is a matter of personal preference. If you feel a “bad history” with museums or battle children who hate the idea of visiting them, it may be worth trying a different strategy to see how it feels.
Here are 4 great tips on how to tackle a museum with your family:
- Choose one or two wings, exhibits or sections of a museum. Accept that you won’t cover the whole place and take the chunk of time you had allotted and stretch it out to spend more time covering less distance. Spend minutes and not seconds with a given piece.
- Plan ahead. If the museum is large, and if your family has varied tastes this will ensure you spend your valuable time in an area that will appeal to you. Find a wing or area with a style you like, or if you are set on seeing a certain piece find out where it is and make that display your destination. Everyone likes different things? If so, let different family members choose where to focus. Some will be happier than others, but it may be better than all being miserable from running around too much.
- Consider avoiding the most famous works. Unless they are of particular significance to you or strike a special chord, you may get more time and a more relaxed experience in some of the less crowded areas. Let yourself become a connoisseur rather than a tourist. You may discover something you didn’t even know you liked.
- Start by wandering a bit and take note of what speaks to you, then circle back and spend time with your favorite pieces. This will give you a better chance of finding one or two things you really connect with, which can be the difference between “seeing” a museum and experiencing it. Forming a connection with a few pieces will make the memory all the more rewarding, especially for children who will have a better chance of remembering a painting or exhibit, rather than an entire building.
Vacations come in many shapes and sizes. “City” vacations tend to be busier and less relaxing in nature than beach vacations and island getaways. There is nothing wrong with being the kind of person or family who tries to pack a lot into the time they have; some places you visit are once in a lifetime opportunities. We simply want to point out that just because you are willing to run around a city to see all it has to offer, that does not mean you have to run around each stop within that city in the same frenzied manner.
Museums are places of culture and education; neither of those things can be rushed or boiled down and condensed into quick jaunts. They also shouldn’t become stressful, tedious experiences to the point where they become dreaded ordeals. By simply slowing down the pace and adjusting your approach, you can totally change the game when it comes to the way your family experiences museums. They can (and should!) be an important component to your vacations.