Want to make someone hate you?
Find a person who doesn’t know much about art and force them to spend hours as you drag them to every painting in every gallery in a museum while you read every placard as they fidget next to you.
Yep. I guarantee that by the end of the day, not only will they hate you, they’ll be damned sure they never get close to another museum again.
I can say this with authority.
You see, I have a degree in Art History, and I might be considered to be a very dangerous person when it comes to death by museum. Except for one thing. My mother taught me to love art, and she taught me a method for helping others to do the same.
It’s not rocket science. If you want someone to love something — make it pleasant, make it fun. Don’t punish them with it!
When my Mom took us to museums – the National Gallery in Washington, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, or the National Gallery in London — she would do this simple thing.
She usually had one or two artists, or perhaps an art period that she wanted to see. We would arrive at the museum, go to the shop and pick up a museum catalogue, then go sit and have coffee or tea and browse through the catalogue. My sister and I would both choose things we wanted to see, and then the three of us would set off to find those things. At other times, we would buy an audio tour and use that instead.
Plan a Rational Museum Visit
I’ve spent most of my life teaching at the college level, and when I create lesson plans, human attention span is critically important. I work with 10 – 20 minute blocks, changing what we are doing — and being sure to involve my students. Then every 50 minutes to an hour, they need a break.
That’s the way I approach going with someone to a museum — whether it’s my daughter Catherine, my sister, my good friend Joyce, or my husband Drew.
With the internet, it’s easier than ever now to do some pre-planning. If you are going to a world-class museum during a heavy tourist season, find out about getting tickets ahead — nothing makes a non-museum person grouchier than standing in line for an hour before your visit starts.
It’s also important to agree on about how long you’re going to spend at the museum so that everyone is on the same page.
Unless someone is heavily into art — you should limit the visit to 2 to 3 hours. If you are taking young children, or a really antsy adult, the time should be shorter.
Try to go to the museum early in the day — before it gets too crowded, and while you are still fresh. We all know that the more tired someone gets, the more difficult it is to pay attention.
When Drew and I went to the British Museum, we got the audio guide The British Museum Your Way. Then we also used one of the museums object trails: 3 Hours at the British Museum — great set of highlights with things we both wanted to see. We had lunch in the museum cafe halfway through. Stopping for a rest and refreshment is key. It does several things; most importantly, it allows you to process some of the things you have seen. My husband and I watched people. We chatted about the Ashurbanipal lion hunt. Then we picked up with renewed energy and went on to the next gallery.
When I took my daughter to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for the first time, she was fifteen. Before we went, we stopped and had coffee and Catherine thumbed through the Met website on my iPad. When we entered the museum we had a plan — and it was a great experience for her. We did the same thing on our next two trips to the city. Since then, Catherine’s been back to New York for a mock trial trip and to visit a university — and she has taken her friends and her Dad to The Met. I love museums, and it brings me great happiness to see I’ve raised another museum lover.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art now has a smartphone app, The Met App, that can help you plan your visit. Another way to tour the Metropolitan is new to me — there is now Viator’s EmptyMet tour that I’d like to try the next time I’m in the city — the chance to visit the Metropolitan when it is closed to the general public.
But I Want to Spend ALL DAY at the Museum!
Yes, darling. I know that there is an art lover out there right now reading this and feeling very put out.
What if you’re in Paris for the first time and you think you may never see the Louvre again? And you just want to spend the WHOLE DAY wandering the galleries of the Louvre.
My advice? Do a short visit with the other person, then send them back to the hotel in a cab — afterwards, you can geek out with your art to your heart’s content. Obviously, if you have small children, this won’t work — but then you know that already.
The big thing is this — if you exhaust someone who doesn’t have the same level of interest you do — and make them hate museums, then you’ve done everyone a disservice.
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