I have a love hate relationship with museums. On one hand, the artifacts, history and buildings are enchanting; there’s a cool, new factiod around every corner. On the other hand, museums remind me of boring school trips spent hours banally analyzing a single painting. Museums run the risk of being static, staid and dull. They can be too big, too expensive, too small; a good museum is hard to find.
After a couple weeks of extreme traveling, I have a new appreciation for museums and learnt a thing or two about how to get the most out of renown cultural centers, admission price not included.
1. Go at you own pace. When I was a teenager, I only went to museums on family trips, which meant going through at (roughly) the pace my parents set. My Dad could easily spent an entire trip to Italy inside the Uffizi galleries. I would spend a conservative hour. Don’t worry about how long other people want to spend, find your own sweet time. Maybe you can whiz through and get the same thing that a slow stroll would give someone else.
2. Go to the proper type of museum. My Dad likes paintings, my mom likes clothing, I have some friends obsessed with photography and I’m a sucker for period rooms. There may not be one museum for all of us, but there are plenty of museums that will please us individually. Go there.
3. Screw analysis, unless you want to. In school we learnt to critically analyze painting and then went to museums to practice. It was supremely dull. You don’t have to analyze it for symbols and metaphors if you don’t want to. Find your own way to engage with what you’re looking at.
4. Laugh. Some paintings are funny. Some statues are absurdly out of proportion and some translations are horrible. Don’t think of the museums as solely serious. Have a lighter sense of what you’re seeing.
5. Choose your own greatest hits and know it’s okay if you don’t love the masterpieces. I still, to this day, maintain that I was supremely underwhelmed by the sistine chapel. I’ve seen it twice and strained my neck during the rooms leading up to it, only to feel like I could use a break when we finally arrived. It’s okay. I’m in love with plenty of paintings that will never make it on postcards. My own greatest hits are the ones that I’ll choose to visit again and again because they speak to me, not because they have a huge history behind them.
Do you enjoy museums? What’s your favorite type of museum?