“Where can I take you, Miss?” the cabbie asked me.
“The Archaeological Museum, please,” I responded with a smile.
“Are you going to the museum or are you going somewhere near? – I can drop you off right in front of whatever place you are going to,” he continued pleasantly.
“No, no, I am really going to the museum, so right at the entrance will do.”
We continued to drive in silence. Ten minutes later we stopped in front of the big yellow building. I took out my wallet, “How much is it?”
“No worry, darling, this one is on me.”
“I’ve been driving this cab for 25 years, and not once has anyone asked me to take them to a museum. I’ve visited all of them, you know. Took my son everywhere, when he was a schoolboy!”
“You really don’t have to…” I tried to hand him some money.
“No, No… Now, off you go! Enjoy!”
25 years?! Bloody hell!
I did not write this introduction to suggest that museums are dying. I know people still go to museums. Every time I peak inside any bigger museum, there is always a large group of tourists or a group of school pupils being led by their very enthusiastic guide and a couple of less enthusiastic teachers. Most of the times – both. However, leaving the cab, I was wondering if it really was just a coincidence that this particular cabbie never had a person going to a museum before me. The obvious answer is: “Duh!” accompanied by a mocking face and an eye-roll. However, could it also be that it is partially due to the fact that individuals and smaller groups – people more likely to take a cab – simply don’t go to museums that often? I know my friends rarely do.
Most of the time, when a form of entertainment is unpopular with my generation, I first consider if money is the issue. However, in many cases, entrance to museums is free, so being short on money is not a likely factor. Moreover, my mother, to whom ticket prices would not present an issue, dislikes museums just as much as people from my age. Why? I believe that the first part of the problem is that a regular trip to a museum for some reason means going through the whole collection. In other words, looking at hundreds of artefacts, learning basic things about them and about the artists that created them – which in the end turns out to be both mentally and physically tiring and time consuming. Additionally, the reward is not all that great, as it means leaving with very few, if any, works stored in your long-term memory.
The second problem was suggested in an article from Telegraph called “21 Reasons Why I Hate Museums”, in which Oliver Smith, a digital travel editor, mentions the problem of not knowing anything about the objects you are observing. This resonates with me quite strongly, because I’ve seen many artefacts during countless museum visits and the ones that I remember best are the ones I knew a lot about before seeing them and the interest for which was personal. Seeing the bust of Nefertiti in Berlin was more emotional for me than many of the concerts and plays I’ve seen. It is this type of experience I go to museums for. Nevertheless, I know that if museum visits were limited to only seeing the works one has as much knowledge of as I have of Nefertiti, most people (myself included) would probably only visit a couple of museums in their lifetime. Moreover, museums would lose their educational purpose. Part of the excitement of going to a museum is to see something new.
So how do you organize museum visits that teach you something new, enough to make it educational and limited enough not to have an information overload? To easiest way, I think, would be to do a little research before the visit to see what the museums offers and what parts of the collection you would be most interested in seeing. Learn more about it. Visit that section, give it all your time and energy, and skip the rest. That way you don’t have to power walk from one artefact to another, and won’t lose time on things you really don’t care about.
“Hey, what are you doing tomorrow?”
“Nothing special. Gonna go to Kelvingrove gallery in the morning and then I have some coursework to do. Wanna come?”
“No sorry… I have to study. Library tomorrow?”
“I won’t be in Kelvingrove more than half an hour… But sure!”
“What can you see in half an hour? – The gallery is huge! Took me and my sisters hours!”
“Nah, I don’t have to see everything. I’m just going to the Scottish colourists this week, they make me happy.”