How to Enjoy a Museum

Five Methods:PreparationArt MuseumsInformation MuseumsLiving MuseumsTransportation Museums

Enjoying a museum visit means finding out what works for you when you go. There are so many possible ways to keep yourself entertained in a wide variety of museums, that there is bound to be something that takes your fancy and enlivens the visit for you. Follow these steps, and you'll be prepared.

Note that this article covers both the generalities of planning to ensure an entertaining visit, as well as giving the specifics of visiting some types of museums.

Method 1

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    Being prepared is really important for ensuring your enjoyment at a museum. Doing a little research and planning in advance will give you a heads up as to what is worth seeing and doing and will help you to make the most of your time at the museum. It will also help you decide whether or not it's best to break down the visit into a series of visits, something that is possible if it's your local museum.
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    Decide what museum you will visit. There are so many different types of museums in existence, that you'd be hard pressed not to find one that pleases you. There are museums for art, information, re-enactments, military and war, transportation, science, open air, virtual and zoos.[1] Select one that excites your curiosity and you're halfway to having an enjoyable visit!
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    Do some research before visiting.[2] Most museums now have online portals which allow you to explore the museum virtually. When looking up your chosen museum, look for such things as:
    • The exhibits - see what is on exhibit at the museum at all times, as well as special exhibitions being held for a short time.
    • The history of the museum - there will often be very interesting stories about the artifacts, benefactors, etc., that can make your visit all the more interesting.
    • Activities - see whether there are talks, displays, tours, special activities that will happening on the day that you visit. Many museums hold regular activities that meet all age group interests.
    • Fees, food and storage - although mundane, it's important to know how much the visit will cost, whether or not you can eat there, and whether or not there is storage for coats, bags, etc. You might also need to check about stroller and wheelchair access or hire, and find out about out transportation needs and car parking.
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    Be prepared to learn at least one thing on your visit. It is always good to take away something new from your visit.
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    Plan rest and refreshment breaks into your visit. Long periods of walking around, standing and interacting with displays can be wearying after a while; it is important to take breaks and to re-energize. This will provide you with a good opportunity to take stock of what you have seen and what else you might want to do in the museum, helping you to stay focused to avoid aimless wandering.
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    Take a friend or two. Visiting museums is always a lot more fun when you are with someone else to share the experience with and to talk over what you're seeing. A friend also brings another perspective when you talk about what you see amongst yourselves.
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    Think broadly. Really take a broad look at things see the big picture and then the small. Try to find out what the artist, builder, writer, or whatever, was thinking when they made their work. What was the maker trying to tell you?

Method 2
Art Museums

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    Art museums can be a great deal of fun provided you go with an open mind and don't expect to see the mass produced marketing imagery you see in the rest of your everyday life. Keeping an open mind about art can lead you to discover how centuries of people have thought, lived, and played before us. And one day, it'll be our lifestyles on those canvases, installations, and displays that people will stand gazing at too -- quite a grounding realization! If you're taking children to an art museum, it's a good idea to introduce them to online activities as well, to help them learn more about art, both before and after the visit.
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    Take it slowly. Learning to love art is a process, not necessarily an instantaneous reaction. Be prepared to take the time to look around, and to react in your own way. If somebody knowledgeable about the art is helping you, that can be great but it can also make you feel that you don't know anything - if that happens, just let them know that you need to discover the art in your own way before having too many details given to you.
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    Try to find out what the artist was seeking to say in his or her pictures. Instead of just staring at the Mona Lisa in blank awe, determine what Leonardo Da Vinci's intent was. This will keep you busy for a while. It can be even more fun doing this with a friend, with both of you guessing together, or giving each other competing viewpoints.
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    Find a painting that really appeals to you. Try to notice all the details of the painting, and determine what they might mean. For instance, if a painting is a family portrait, and only one person is wearing black, it might mean that this particular person was dead at the time of the painting. Asking "what if…" expands your assumptions.
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    Find a statue. If there is a large crowd, find someone who looks like the statue. If you're with a friend, you can try posing as the statue.
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    Look at a scenery painting. Try to imagine someone you know in the scene, and imagine them doing different things. You can add other people, and see what you can come up with. For some more fun, you could start out with putting your best friend in, and then add famous people such as Albert Einstein, Carrie Underwood, etc.
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    Look at installation art. This can be mind-boggling and mind-expanding all at once. Think about what the artist is trying to convey - what could possibly be going through the artist's mind? Think about how the installation impacts you, and whether you agree with it being termed art or not.
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    Do not touch. So many people go through museums that touching is not allowed in order to preserve the items for future visitors. Imagine how quickly everything would be destroyed if touching objects were allowed!

Method 3
Information Museums

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    In most major cultural centers, information museums are no longer the dull, lifeless places of yore. Museums everywhere are now actively trying to be interactive places of learning, allowing visitors to touch, play with, and experience many of the displays. Look for the most interactive information museums when you make your decision to visit a museum, as this will increase the likelihood that you're going to have an absolutely fantastic time visiting the museum -- from natural history to aviation museums, there are many possibilities open to you.
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    Find something you like on arrival. When you first arrive, ask for the map. Locate the places on the map of interest to you - usually there will be at least one thing that catches your eye. For instance, if you like dinosaurs, go to the fossil section, or any area that is specially set aside for dinosaur displays. If you find several things of interest, plan your time and movements accordingly to make sure that you don't miss seeing all of the attractions.
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    Get interactive. Find the interactive features for each exhibit and interact; play the games, watch the stories, move things around, test your knowledge, and generally get involved. You'll find you learn a lot more by doing this than simply reading the information plaques.
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    Take photos. Check that you are allowed to do so first, as the rules vary from museum to museum. Let a friend take a picture of you with the Tyrannosaurus Rex. With a little bit of knowledge of angles, you can make it seem like you are petting the dinosaur's head, or getting eaten by it!
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    Visit specific areas of the museum and look for certain items. Making the visit into a bit of a seek-and-find hunt can really turn it into an exciting occasion. Here are some possible ideas:
    • Visit the geology section. Find your favorite color stone. Find your birth stone. You can even read about where the rocks were found and learn about how geologists tell the ages of rocks from their features.
    • Visit the animal section. Look for the largest and smallest stuffed animal. Look for the oldest mammal and the smallest mammal. Look for the bird with the most colorful feathers and the bird with the strangest habits (such as collecting all things blue).
    • Visit the astronomy section. Find the largest star. Find the youngest galaxy. Learn all that you can about black holes. Learn about star clusters in constellations.
    • Visit the section detailing disasters in your country or region. Find the largest or worst disaster. Was it natural or human-made? Was it avoidable or completely unexpected? Is it likely to happen again and if so, what can you do to protect yourself?
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    Listen to the descriptions. Most museums have headphones that you can rent, and plug them into the little hole next to an exhibit. This will help a lot if you don't enjoy reading descriptions.
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    Some museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC have entire wings dedicated to different civilizations of the past (ancient Greece and Rome, Egypt, the Americas, and Asian civilizations.) The Egyptian wing even has sections of ancient temples to walk through. It can be fun, entertaining, and very interesting to walk through them and try to imagine it from the point of view of the people who built them or lived there. Then, try walking through again, and imagine it from the point of view of the explorers and archaeologists who uncovered them. You can do that with the smaller exhibits (which display jewelry, every day objects of the time, etc.)

Method 4
Living Museums

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    Living museums are museums where a certain era or occasion is re-enacted, right down to the staff wearing costumes of the period. It's very hard to not enjoy yourself at one of these, so aim for a visit to a living museum whenever you do have the chance.
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    Check out what is on offer by way of live displays. There could be a wide range of things happening, from sword play to making rope the old-fashioned way. Mark down the different displays that interest you and be sure to get to each one on time. It's hard not to enjoy watching things happen right before you and it's a lesson that doesn't require reading.
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    Try the local or era-specific foods. Some living museums offer food made from the period and often you can watch it being cooked or baked, and then sample it. This can be a great way to experience what sorts of things people used to eat.
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    Dress up if you can. If the living museum provides dressing up costumes for you try, get right into the action. Have a friend take photos and spend time walking around the complex in your costume, pretending to blend into the era and surroundings for a short time.
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    Imagine what it must have been like to have lived during the times depicted by the living museum. Would you have been happy? Would you have been able to keep warm enough? Would the food have been to your liking? Would you have enjoyed going to school or to work in those times? Compare how wealthy and poor people lived in those times; compare their lifestyles with how we live today.

Method 5
Transportation Museums

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    Transportation museums can cover all types of transport including aviation, shipping, trams, buses, and cars. Enthusiasts of any type of vehicle will always find something to entertain them at such a museum but if you find yourself not so enthused, here are some fun things to do as well.
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    Get on board! If the display allows you to clamber on board a ship, a bus, a plane, take the opportunity. This can be really fun as you explore the decks, the cockpit, the steering, the sleeping quarters, etc., of each type of transport.
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    Take a trip. Some transportation museums have running, working versions of old transportation for you to try. This is a great way to take the weight off your legs and simply sit down and enjoy the ride! Trains, boats, and model trains are often used for this purpose.
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    Think about the people who used to fly, drive, steer, navigate, or work with the transport items you're viewing. Transport is a great way to learn about the history of your city or region because it affects people in so many ways - working for transportation companies, getting to work, traveling on vacation, being rescued, etc. It can be a very visual way of building a picture in your own mind about the past of your hometown or country.


  • Dress comfortably. Shoes that you enjoy walking in are a must, as is being warm or cool enough.
  • Don't visit exhibits that you might not be able to handle. If you're terrified of dinosaurs, maybe you shouldn't visit the dinosaur section. This also goes if you are squeamish. Some museum sections have very graphic displays, such as the Body Worlds exhibition. For some people, it is culturally disrespectful to view mummified, etc., bodies of the dead. If you are hesitant about visiting an exhibit that might have too much graphic content or be unsettling, ask a museum employee for a brief description of the area. If you are a parent, make sure that all exhibits are appropriate for your children before visiting them.
  • Take snacks if you can't afford the prices in the cafe, or you don't want to wait in line too long. Be sure to eat them only where permitted though - crumbs on the displays might not be appreciated.
  • Always check opening days and times. Some museums are shut on traditional days, such as Mondays, depending on where you are in the world. Another benefit of checking opening times is to find out when museums offer free or reduced price entrance, or special event days or nights.
  • International Museum Day is May 18, 2010, and is usually celebrated on or around this date every year. It's a good excuse to get out and enjoy your local museum culture.


  • Do not climb on the displays. An alarm will most likely go off, and you'll end up being warned off by security.
  • Don't bring your children to anything scary. They will most likely not enjoy looking at the diagram of a guillotine, and watching a video on how it works. Also beware of interactive rides - these can really frighten some children - ask in advance if you can get a refund for a child that balks at staying on the ride.

Sources and Citations

  1. Wikipedia, Museums
  2., How to Enjoy a Museum

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