Museums are reopening. Here is why they ARE essential.

Are Museum Workers essential? Now when museums are starting reopening this is a growingly frequent question. Firstly, I would like to give more love to museum workers.

Museum work is not considered highly essential during these times of pandemic. These moments of crisis indeed show the great importance of some professions compared to others. For instance, we learned how nurses or factory workers turn out to be way more important than “key operational managers” in consultancy companies.

Furthermore, the meaning of the important or essential has changed. Cars and shoes are now less important than a comfortable kitchen chair, right? Similarly, museums were the last thing to think about for so many people over these times.

And still, they are more essential than ever. Why? These are the three reasons.

First of all: Other areas are surging too.

On April 30, 2020, my American colleagues from Museum Hack published an article about the virtual museum trends. Better said, they wrote about the non-existence of such trends.

To clarify, the virtual museum trend peaked in mid-March this year and lasted four days. My guide to virtual museums was popular for a few days before dropping in popularity too.

However, there is a surge of nice museum ideas for:

  • School programs
  • Dating
  • Reading ideas
  • Slow and sustainable travel – this is the one I decided to add on the list.

There are many areas that simply include museums. With museums reopening, we are subsequently getting new opportunity to get out of the lockdowns smoothly, while at the same time we can maintain the caution.

Touriseum Merano - Sustainable Travel
Touriseum, Museum of Travel and Tourism of South Tyrol (Italy), a place where visitors usually stay for the whole day in a variety of activities.

This is the Museum Week!

Although I am not an official partner of the MuseumWeek initiative on Twitter in any way, I decided to create a category on my blog about it. That is to say, I have a goal to follow the flow independently and share the most important things.

The Museum Week is a Twitter event always happening ahead of the International Museum Day (May 18). During that week, museums from all over the world share stories according to daily topics decided by the organiser.

At the moment when I am writing this article, we are in the first day of the event. Darius Arya is one of my museum Twitter colleagues and one of the very best online educators about the ancient history. He often makes live streamed guided visits to places in Rome, and this time he showed viewers the Palazzo Altemps, one of the city’s gazillions of museums.

He was walking around the empty museum, telling fun and cool stories, making you want to be there listening to such a great guidance, for hours.

Read also: How to visit a museum? (2018)

Slow traveling

Palazzo Altemps? When I was in Rome two years ago, that one didn’t come into my focus, I have to say it very frankly.

Nevertheless, I know it is an amazing museum. I say it because slow traveling is a lovely way of traveling. In short, I have encouraged slow travel a lot during the recent times, and I recommend visits to museums as a part of that.

To clarify, I will put a list of clear guidelines to slow traveling:

  • Choose destinations that are not too far from your home more often.
  • Try going to less trips, but prefer spending more time on each trip.
  • Instead of trying to save money on expensive destinations, rather choose less expensive destinations, so that you can afford more experience and stay there longer.
  • During your days on trip, explore slowly.
  • Value quality over quantity in terms of number of places, museums, parks, attractions you visit.
  • Practice some activities during the trip. Sports, arts, music, anything you feel good at.
  • Travel alone or in a compatible company. Don’t let the company ruin your experience due to incompatible desires.
  • Consume local products and make sure you support local businesses.
  • Be responsible towards the local community: avoid tourist traps and accommodations that take homes from local people.
  • When you visit a museum, stay there as long as you can.

In other words, visiting one museum in a week of traveling might be better than visiting three museums in day running from one to another.

Slow travel - museums reopening
During a slow visit to the Pinacoteca di Ancona (Italy, June 2019), I went behind a painting and i found the artist’s sketches on the wood. Scroll to the end of the article to see the painting itself!

For whom are museums reopening?

Tourism will have to wait and reinvent itself, as the restrictions continue to some extent. Meanwhile, the museums’ open doors will wait for locals. After staying at home, we are in the times of going out slowly.

Last Saturday for the Europe Day, there was a webinar about the Cultural Heritage for the Future of Europe. Hermann Parzinger,, from the Prussian Heritage Foundation in Berlin, especially highlighted that museums in that city are reopening for their Berliners. After that, they will be reopening for some local travellers. But do we actually want any mass tourism targeting museums and heritage sites again?

Over the past few years, I wasn’t feeling right on some locations of heritage. Vatican Museums in Rome, Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, Acropolis of Athens, the historical heart of Dubrovnik, these are only some of the places of a great historical significance I recently frequented. Certainly many people I could see there had dreamed to be on these sites for a long.

On the other hand, it was crowded. Better said, it was terribly crowded. On all these places I mentioned, people were waiting in queues to enter and see something that is must-visit.

Slow travel and museums reopening
Drawing as an example of slow travel – on the terrace of the crowded, must-visit Acropolis Museum. October, 2019.

Read also: Uncovering Parthenon

There are so-called unpopular opinions about everything and I have some of them. I don’t think there is such a thing as a “must-visit” place. Acropolis, Vatican Museums, and Jeronimos Monastery are crowded and actually uncomfortable places for curious travelers and visitors who are truly into history and arts.

Travel trends and historical sites

Although I don’t doubt the historical significance of these places, it doesn’t mean much to most of these individuals in the crowds. Meanwhile, gazillions of lesser-known museums in the very same cities of Rome, Lisbon, and Athens are almost empty. Can you imagine that?

It is because most people travel to big, famous, popular cities for weekend city breaks, short tours, or they even get out from a cruise ship for a day. Where do they go? If it is their first visit to the city, they will likely visit places they consider the must-visit.

But in reality, you need at least 2 weeks to give a great visit to the eternal city of Rome. I would say the same about the glorious Athens and illustrious Lisbon.

Smaller cities like Dubrovnik are a slightly different story. More often than not, they are museums themselves. They are now reopening too, again, for their local inhabitants. Towns like Dubrovnik or Venice are one-day trip destinations. Likewise Acropolis of Athens or Archeological areas of Roman Forum, Dubrovnik is an urban outdoor area for walking and selfies.

While local agencies invite visitors in Dubrovnik to Game of Thrones tours, to show them where the HBO show was filmed, there are suspicions that some visitors believe they came to the filming site. If true, it means that some visitors don’t even feel any affection for historical sites, but only for travel trends.

Slow Travel - Museums Reopening
A crowd of blue buses in the landscape around the ancient site of Mykines in Greece as Mykines is one of the must-visit places for many organised trips. But there are dozens of other historical sites in the surroundings.

Feeding your natural curiosity

Museums matter, they are reopening for us to explore them. This article is my very first dedication to museums as agents of change in the way we travel. Above all, people travel because they are curious. Most travelers love to learn new things. But our choices largely depend on what someone told us we “should” do.

To sum up, I would like everyone who read this article to share their slow travel stories with me, especially if they included museums. Even more if they included museum activities such as reading, creative work, or research.

Tiziano Vecellio, Pala Gozzi, 1520. Pinacoteca di Ancona.

1 Comment

  • I am so happy to read this post …I’m working at the Joan MirĂ³ Foundation in Barcelona and during these 2 months we have been closed I have thought that it is a big opportunity to all us to change the way we travel, the way we live, the way we look at thinks, … I also got to the conclusion that the key word is Essential, because Miro also worked to the essence and that’s why I’m so happy to read your post. THANKS!! @anoelleh

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