As a museum geek, I make it a point to visit museums whenever I travel. I just love looking at historical artefacts, paintings, sculptures, and even animal skeletons, and learning all the tiniest details about them. I even collect the brochures at the information desks — they come in handy for light reading whenever I’ve tired myself out and take a seat at a nearby bench! And, of course, I love museum cafés because they have the best coffee and pastries.
However, not everyone shares my passion for museums. The most common reason I hear is that museums are boring. Not everyone’s heart skips a beat when they learn a brand-new fact about a local sculptor. Another reason is the supposed air of snootiness and elitism. It’s true that plenty of exhibitions have write-ups that only history or art experts can understand. Also, there’s the grumpy museum guards (called docents) that keep people away from touching or even breathing too close to a painting.
I’m encouraging all museum haters to look beyond the formidable architecture and stern docents. Hear me out while I give you five reasons you should visit museums!
Five reasons to visit museums — even if you hate them
1. They usually are free or inexpensive
I’ve heard some friends being put off by the expensive museum passes that charge an arm and a leg to see their exhibitions. Which is weird, because plenty of museums — especially those that are owned and managed by the state — are usually free, or at least don’t cost a lot.
Some big museums, such as the Museo del Prado in Spain and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, have certain hours where they don’t charge a cent to enter. Most museums are just happy to have visitors, and they would love to have you as well!
2. There’s a museum out there for everyone
So maybe old and broken pottery isn’t exactly your thing. Maybe the idea of seeing a mummy grosses you out. I’ve heard people say that museums are just glorified tombs of the past, where useless things are put on display for the public to see at a price. While most museums do feature old things that no longer serve their purpose, there are those that don’t focus on the past.
Take for example, the Museum of Bad Art, a great place to find unusual art that doesn’t exactly fit in with the usual. There’s also the Cup Noodles Museum in Japan — perfect for fans of all things ramen! The possibilities are endless if you know just where to look.
Also read: Lakbay Museo: An IG-Worthy Museum in the PH
3. They are rare spaces to find peace and introspection
Some are put off by the long lines and the heavy security around museums. True, a lot of them can get pretty crowded, especially the Mona Lisa room in the Louvre (good luck snapping a selfie with her!). But docents are there to make sure that tourists don’t get rowdy or noisy in the exhibition halls. Museums are also generally quiet spaces, where everyone speaks in hushed tones despite the large crowds.
If you find yourself looking for a place to settle down after a long day of travelling, you might just take a liking to sitting in a museum. During off-peak hours, the big halls full of art and historical artefacts might just give you much-needed relaxation. Don’t worry if you can’t understand the painting hanging right in front of you; just sitting still and marvelling at it already achieves the piece’s purpose well enough.
4. You never know what you might learn
Museums not only hold a wealth of educational material within their halls. They also hold a lot of gossip and unusual facts about their exhibits. Did you know that there’s a supposedly cursed painting in the National Museum in the Philippines? A bunch of the painting’s owners were said to have died mysteriously or suffered great misfortunes.
History is peppered with juicy facts that are the stuff of legend and myth. Just like modern-day showbiz and tabloid news items, museums carry a lot of unusual information that might just get you interested.
5. Docents are actually nicer than they seem
Docents may be notorious for snapping at tourists for taking photos. But it is their job to make sure that years of research and restoration by hard-working historians, curators, artists, and researchers don’t go to waste.
Because of their toughness, it’s easy to dismiss them as snobbish and grumpy. But have you ever tried to talk to docents on duty? Believe me, they carry a wealth of information about the exhibits that are just a chat away. Docents are starving for conversation with genuinely interested visitors. You might even discover some museum gossip gems!
Sure, museums aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe I still haven’t convinced you to visit any museums by now. But for sure, I hope that you find that one museum that will spark something inside you. There is sure to be an exhibit, artefact, or art piece that is bound to stir your soul.