No matter if you are a schooled or an unschooled watcher, everyone can enjoy art, as long as you are open to what you see. Although it does help if you get some guidance. I hope these 10 tips on visiting a museum serve you.
How to prepare your visit
1. Google your interest plus the word museum
Museums usually specialize in a particular subject. Some museums have a broad view on their specialization (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Dutch art from the 15th unto the 19th century), others are very specialized (Local History Museum of Paulus van Daesdonck, Ulvenhout, the Netherlands). You probably already know museums for your specific interest, but Google might surprise you. Just search your preference plus the word ‘museum’.
2. What would you like to see?
Aside from a specific interest, there are general preferences. Some people love abstract, others are more into figurative work. One prefers two-dimensional, the other rather sees three-dimensional work. Again, googling a word plus the word ‘museum’ yields a wealth of information.
3. On your way
Check in advance on the website what the current exhibition is. And (here’s a tip out of experience!) check whether the museum is open on the day that you want to go. (Sometimes I am standing in front of a closed door, because I’ve failed to do just that. Especially when I am abroad.) What is the entrance fee, is there a surcharge for temporary exhibitions, will there be a museum café or a restaurant?
If you visit a big museum, you better pick just a couple of rooms instead of seeing everything. Or if the museum has put a lot on display (like museums for antiquities often have a tendency to), choose a few things that you really like or think that are interesting, and pretend you do not see the rest.
5. If you visit with children
It is a good idea to see if there is a special tour for children. For instance a treasure hunt. Look for accompanying signs that children can read at their own height.
In the museum
6. Have an open mind
We are so accustomed to see many images that we unconsciously skip a lot. As a result you do not take everything in. Ask yourself what an artist was thinking when he/she created the work.
7. Take regular breaks
Prevent yourself from walking thoughtlessly through the museum.Walking around too long is quite tiring. You better take a break and have a drink or sit on a bench somewhere to rest.
8. Keep in mind in what time a work was made
And I do not mean how long someone was working on it, but in what year and what culture the artist lived when he or she created the work. Personally, I am always amazed that the abstract works of Piet Mondriaan with his primary colors were constructed in a time when most homes looked like that of my grandmother. With piles of dark wood furniture and a lot of frills.
To go with a friend is extra fun if you ask each other questions about the work. What do you see in this? What do you think the purpose of the artist was? What do you think of the use of color?
10. Do not be fooled
You do not need to be an accomplished art critic to walk around in a museum. Never mind the idea that your knowledge is insufficient or of people acting as if they know it all. Even as a “layman” you can enjoy what you see. Or not, to your own liking.
Have fun with your visits!
And if you have another tip, please feel free to leave it in the commentbox.