Things you should not do in museums

Let’s take a look into a brighter future, and imagine our travel plans. Now, we’ll talk about things you should not do in museums. Let’s start.

My Traveler’s Collection series already featured articles such as How to visit a Museum, posted in 2018. Additionally, the article about the Reasons why you should not visit museums was another popular readers choice. Now, with a new pandemic-related perspective, this article will tell you what are some things for which museums are not perfect places. However, the list starts with things you should not do before you visit a museum. So, we will have a point 0 before the list.

Point Zero – don’t choose to visit a museum because it is a “must visit” place

Travel used to look like the scene from the photo below. Some of you may recognise the place and the building, but even if you don’t, you got the point. These people are waiting to enter the “cultural attraction” located in a part of this building, known for some unique architecture and an incredible hype and aura of a “must visit” place.

Most importantly, they only want to see a small part of this building, the central area of the former monastery. The rest is the Archaeological Museum that is a pretty empty space most of the time.

What to do instead?

Look at the list of museums in a city, and pick the one that seems the most appealing to you. Allow yourself a little search, walk there, discover the area around that museum.

Things you should not do in museums
It was a rainy day in November of 2017. People standing at the end of the queue will likely wait for 1,5 hours to enter, since the space is too small to host as many people. Location: Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon

Point One – don’t rush in museums

Big museums require a big time. Art fans will enjoy the Louvre, while Smithsonian Museums in Washington cover almost all the possible affinities. However, visits to that kind of places are exhausting and so overwhelming, as most of the people who visit them don’t think like I do. They visit them because it is “must visit”.

In any case, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to skip classical places of cultural heritage such as big museums. More specifically, I would recommend you to pick museums you genuinely want to visit. After that, take your time to visit them.

In other words, ignore my 2017 article about visiting 4 Smithsonian museums in one hot summer day. Use it only as a lesson for what shouldn’t be done in museums.

How to make it relaxed if I have a limited time?

First, I would recommend everyone to travel more slowly and take more time for each destination. While I understand that some destinations are too expensive for extended stays, my suggestion would be to make sharp choices and value quality over quantity. Second, try booking in advance wherever it is available.

Working with museums
Always find time to sit down on the bench. Location: Ducal Palace in Urbino, Italy

Point Two – you should not come to a museum with someone who is not interested in that.

For as harsh as it might sound, pick wisely who you take to museums as a company. Don’t beg you family, friends, or partner to join you. Respect their decisions and only invite them if they genuinely want to go there. Otherwise, they may be impatient for the visit to finish and rush you. Even if they will respect your desire to stay longer in some museum rooms, they will feel bored, and it might have a negative impact on your relationship with them.

On the other hand, it is always nice to motivate your loved ones for new experiences. The thing is, you need to do it slowly and compassionately.

How to balance between your wishes and other people’s wishes?

Every day, we make hundreds of decisions. For some of us, it is a bit difficult to do due to overthinking. I am that kind of person, so I know what I am talking about. Quite often, I found myself in a situation of “to be or not to be”. I was often lucky, as I had many museum-supportive people around me. In fact, I was always able to define a museum plan with my loved ones in advance, and we sticked with the plan.

Most importantly, I made sure I picked some museums that will be of their best interest. For instance, I once picked a museum of hotels and restaurants, a few times a museum with numismatic collections, and once a museum with incredible recreated experiences. In these occasions, I made decisions for the others, for something that I knew that would be specially appealing to them. As a result, we had balanced museum plans, and good decision making together.

Now, “museum relationships” deserve another article. Hopefully we will soon have one on Fun Museums.

List of Friends of Fun Museums
Friendship is important. Even in museums. Picture: Illustrated theatrical performance in 16th century Antwerp – (fromĀ Rijksmuseum Digitised Collection)

Point Three – never go to a museum hungry or sleep-deprived

I will be honest and say that I didn’t always follow this rule. For years, I sinned with the sin 1 along with this sin number three. Sometimes it was too bad, as I would just crumble while trying to observe the paintings.

One spring day in 2011 I traveled by train from Coimbra to Lisbon in the morning. I woke up at 6, took the train at 7, and arrived at 10. After that, I immediately started running all around the city visiting two important museums which where away from each other. Until about 6 pm I ate only one tiny chocolate bar. By that time, I had some awkward pain in my legs as I also spent about 7 hours walking or standing. After I laid down on the bed, the pain was not going away. It was difficult to sleep, but I was better the next morning. I was only 22 so it wasn’t a big deal. However, I don’t recommend anyone doing anything similar.

Years later, after I learned to value quality over quantity, I started getting better experiences. If you check my posts from 2016, 17, 18 you may see stories about night buses, night trains, and so. It was exhausting, and I learner how not to rush after these trips but get some rest instead.

How to avoid the burnout while visiting museums?

Make sure you had a good sleep before going to museums, especially to big and complicated ones. Have some energy bars or chocolates with you to not run out of fuel. Most importantly, make sure you don’t burnout emotionally. Many museums can be overwhelming for visitors, don’t forget about it.

Don’t feel like this in museums.

Point Four: you should not read all the lengthy label texts in museums

This point is also very important for passionate museum goers. It is so easy to get lost in labels, and they are often just too lengthy. Above all, curators want to show all the facts that appear important to them, as most of the stories are complex rather than simple. But then it is all up to visitors to choose what information to absorb.

I already wrote an article about curiosity as a primary value in visiting museums and discovering heritage and culture. On the other hand, reading many books, articles, and consuming too much information just make us tired and without any benefit regarding knowledge.

How to avoid the museum label fatigue?

When visiting big museums, make a plan on what is the most interesting part to you. For instance, when I was at the Archaeological Museum of Athens last summer, I focused on ancient pottery, and just spent time there. I had been in that museum before, when I was focused solely on sculpture. That way, you can have a more meaningful visit and remember what you found there.

Again, I wasn’t always the best example of this practice, as some of my visits to big museums were chaotic. However, I kept learning how do make it, and that is why I also hope to be helpful to my readers.

Landesmuseum Zurich - Crazy Books
In some museums, labels are more cool than in other. At the Landesmuseum Zurich, the content is projected from the roof onto the paper book, allowing you a feeling of reading a book.

Point Five: don’t take too many pictures at the museum you are visiting

My 2018 article about taking photos in museums continues popular. However, my perspective on it changed, as I understood we shouldn’t give too much importance to taking pictures inside museums.

I have always defended the idea that museums need to allow taking photos, as nowadays there is no reason for them to prohibit that. In fact, a good photo of a museum, posted on someone’s social media, might be beneficial for the image of museums and their workers. But again, ever here we need to value quality over quantity.

How to take memorable pictures in museums?

Focus on the visit first. Live in the present, and not in the future (or past for that matter), and appreciate the moment. In smaller museums, I would recommend everyone to visit first, and then come back and take some pictures. It is much more difficult to do in bigger museums, but even there you can just observe and appreciate a few rooms for some time before taking a picture. After all, 10 good photos are easier to manage later and look back at them than 100 low quality ones.

Again, I will point out that I am not anymore proud of my old article about “instagrammable” museum motifs (laugh).

Things you should not do in museums
A simple things you can do: establish a rule to observe and get focused before you turn on your camera. (Location: Ancient Agora in Athens)

Point Six: You should not miss the museum website, social media, program, shop, and cafeteria

Museums have much more to offer us than mere wandering around the rooms and countless items. In fact, many additional amenities are a result of someones hard and sometimes underpaid work. Websites and social media sites might look lovely, but you will not know if you don’t search it. Programs, even if virtual in these difficult times, are often kept alive thanks to workers’ passion. Finally, shops and cafeterias in museums are often awesome, and they bring a lot of creativity to the overall shopping and culinary experiences in towns and cities.

Don’t skip these steps to getting to know museums. In other words, check for them, and make your decisions.

One of my favourite museum shops ever, at the Sami Culture Museum in Inari. It offers many local hand-made products from local community. Quite a great way to support them, right?

How to enjoy these additional amenities?

Just look for them, or ask about them. The key is not necessarily in consuming products or following the social media sites, but just about getting informed about everything that is on your disposal. If you choose not to buy anything from the shop or not to follow social media sites, it’s fine. The “I didn’t know about it” thing may be regretful.

Other ideas about things we should not do in museums?

Share it here with us in comments or on social media!

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