Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday Travels: Making Museums Fun

Truthfully, one shouldn't have to MAKE a museum fun. A museum stands on its own merits, don't you think? A well-designed, thoughtfully-planned museum appeals to visitors of all ages and takes into accounts that in order to learn, people -- especially little people -- must not only see and hear, but also touch. And sometimes, taste and smell.

We've been to a fair number of museums in our wanderings, and I thought I'd toss out a few tips for getting some extra mileage out of a couple hours in these halls of higher learning. Feel free to chime in with your own!

1. Set expectations low. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, when our kids are old and gray, swaddled in their crocheted afghans, they'll reminisce about how their parents always told them they were going to visit the Antique Teapot Museum. Substitute Antique Thimble Museum, or Moldy Beef Jerky Museum if you wish. Won't the real thing ALWAYS be better?

2. Surf the web beforehand for images from the museum's collection. Whether it's works of art or special exhibits, you're bound to find a few eye-catching photos to print out and let them peruse before entering the museum. Then, have them see how many actual pieces they can find in the museum to match those images. Basically, folks, we're talking about a visual scavenger hunt. And which paintings, sculptures, or arthropodic wonders do you think they'll remember most?

3. Talk about museum manners before you go in. Is this place no-touch, low-touch, or hands-on? And for sure, one can avoid running or shouting in the halls. Furthermore,  what will be their budget, if any, in that sticky morass known as the Museum Gift Shop?

4. Leave early. Yes, you may want to see one more Monet, or watch one more historical newsreel, but 'tis a far, far better thing to quit at the first sign of ants in the pants, while the kids still think this museum pretty much rocks.

5. On the way home, play Three Truths and a Lie. See how much everyone remembers -- including yourself! Here's an example from last week's jaunt to one of our city's hidden gems, the George Washington Carver Museum. Anyone spot the lie?

  • George Washington Carver came up with over three hundred uses for peanuts. 
  • George Washington Carver never lived in Austin. 
  • Juneteenth is the celebration of slaves in Texas receiving their freedom. 
  • Juneteenth is observed on June 16th. 


Anonymous said...

Ooo I love these tips. I really like museums (or at least I always think I do), but then when I get there I'm always disappointed. But I feel like some of these tips would work wonders for my own general museum-going experience. :D

Hannah said...

So true, Nicole. And I've found myself, in certain museums, wondering what it would be like to come back on my own and just take things at my own pace -- actually reading all the signs!

(In fact, in San Diego, I took myself to an art museum. It was lovely.)

Mark said...

Good ideas Hannah. We have pretty much stopped going to museums. Lack of time being the main reason, but when we do have time they are not high on our list because of the boredom factor. I, however, love museums and am going to see if I can garner some enthusiasm with your tips. Thanks.

kristen said...

hello, fellow austin blogger-mama! i really want to work some more museum-going into our summertime adventures, so i greatly appreciate the tips. & i believe the lie is that juneteenth is june 16th . . . it's the 19th, yes?? :)

Ian said...

Hey, Kristen! Thanks for stopping by. You are absolutely right, my fellow Texan!

Hannah said...

(That was me -- Hannah -- posing as my son. :-))

Marilyn Holeman said...

Something else you might look for online would be the educational "work sheets" that some museums have for field trips/education. The Natural History Museum in San Diego has some pretty interesting booklets.

For example, I googled S.D.Museum of Natural History, went to Education, went to school programs, went to Exhibition Guides, and pulled up a PDF of a current exhibition which included a section on "Ways to Come Prepared."