Museum Etiquette

Museum Etiquette
Museums are no longer the dark, musty, dusty places they used to be. Today’s museums are active, vibrant centers of learning. But that doesn’t mean “anything goes”!

Here are some tips for how to behave when you visit a museum.

1. You can talk, but be courteous to those around you. It may seem like you should whisper and be quiet in a museum gallery, but most curators would love it if more people talked to each other about what they were seeing in a museum! I enjoy walking through my museum and hearing people engaged in a dialog about what they are experiencing. But it goes without saying, not all museum visitors want to hear your conversation!

2. Ask before taking photographs. A museum’s photography policy should be clearly stated on a sign near the admissions desk or on your tour map. If it isn’t, don’t assume photography is allowed. Policies vary from museum to museum. Some will not permit photography at all. Others prohibit the use of flash. Even if photography is not allowed, it may be possible to gain permission if you have a particular interest in an artifact – for PERSONAL USE ONLY.

3. Do not touch! Not only do you risk damaging an artifact by knocking it over and breaking it, the invisible oils on your hands can also cause damage. Keep a respectful distance between yourself and the rope, the artwork on the wall, or the sculpture on the pedestal.

4. Never bring food or drink into the galleries. Even if they don’t have specific food service, most museums will have a designated area for guests to enjoy snacks. Crumbs from your candy bar or potato chips could attract insects and rodents that can damage an artifact.

5. Keep children under control. A museum is not a playground. Children should not run and shout through the galleries, or be permitted to walk underneath ropes. Most museums do not allow children to come in without an adult. It is up to you to explain appropriate museum behavior to your kids.

6. If you enjoyed something, tell a museum employee! We all enjoy positive comments. Too often, people are quick to complain but hesitate to compliment. At my museum, we share positive feedback at our weekly staff meetings. If you don’t want to do it in person, a note or an email are always appreciated.

You Should Also Read:
Why Visit a Museum?
What is Museum Quality?
Volunteering at a Museum

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This content was written by Kim Kenney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Kenney for details.