There was a time, not so long ago, when museums were mostly dark, dull and dusty places that were completely uninteresting to the average person.
But today museums are striving to attract new audiences with innovative programming and exhibitions.
So is a museum for you? You bet it is!
I was recently shocked when a friend of mine – who knows what I do for a living – still expressed anxiety about taking her two small children to my museum. Even though we’ve talked about my museum for almost 8 years – including the children’s section with hands-on activities for kids – she remains skeptical that she should bring her children to our museum.
It serves as a reminder to us museum folks (who are immersed in this world on a daily basis) that sometimes we have to go the extra mile to convince people to step inside our building. Once they get here, we know they’ll be hooked.
If you’re still unsure about shelling out your hard earned cash for admission, here are some things to keep in mind before you visit a museum:
Visit the museum’s website for basic information. Search for admission prices, hours and special programs and exhibitions. Check the calendar of events for special programs you might want to attend.
Call the museum to ask specific questions. If you have trouble with steps, make sure there is an elevator available. If you have kids, find out what the museum offers in their age group. Ask how long it takes the average visitor to tour the museum.
Find out the museum’s photo policy ahead of time. If you don’t see a sign at the Admissions Window or a note on your tour map, don’t assume it is OK to take flash photography. Ask ahead of time to avoid being “caught” taking a photo where you aren’t supposed to!
Choose a time to visit that best suits your situation. Museums are usually busy with field trips during the school year, particularly in the spring months, but most of the groups come in the morning. You might have a less crowded experience if you visit in the afternoon instead.
Do some more research. Ask your friends and family if they’ve ever visited the museum. Find the museum on Facebook or Flickr and see what people are saying about it.
If you have kids, prepare them for the visit. Read a museum-themed children’s book such as Fancy Nancy at the Museum (see link for a review). Or find themed books that will get your child excited about the visit, such as a book on dinosaurs before visiting a natural history museum. Explain how people act in a museum and review simple rules such as “talk with your indoor voice” or “use your walking feet.”
Just do it! Don’t be intimidated to walk in the door. You’ll never know what it’s like if you don’t take that first step. Have fun exploring!