Thursday, 21 November 2013

Making the Most of Your Museum Visit

Written by Marie Rea


Many people get turned off with the idea of visiting museums. But for my family of four, museums are awesome and interesting places to enjoy- they offer exhibits and collections you will perhaps never see as they are rare and they offer avenues for intellectual exploration which can lead to more amazing discoveries for your kids particularly, depending on their interests.

First, what are museums?
According to the Museum Association website (UK): 'Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.' This definition includes art galleries with collections of works of art, as well as museums with historical collections of objects."

Often they are housed in huge buildings with several levels like the Natural History Museums in almost every country. Or, they can be in a small "Heritage listed" old home that often has been restored and so forth.

Inside Museum - Prefecture of Kerkyra CORFU
Here are some guidelines on getting the most from your museum visit, based on my personal experience:

Do your research before your intended visit. This way, you will know which areas you need to spend more time in and those you don't need to see or just pass through quickly.

For instance, when my boys were fascinated with dinosaurs and other prehistoric stuff, we took them to the Field Museum in Chicago which was an enormous place with various sections. So we knew which floors to go to first and then just browsed through the others. But, once we were there, we were also fascinated with the various natural stones and minerals exhibits that this encouraged my boys to get interested in collecting stones and forge metals.To this day, they have a growing collection of pocket knives (all legal) and the like.

Ask the staff or read up which exhibits have hands on and allow people to touch and explore.
The Powerhouse Museum and Children's Museums in Australia and also in the Philippines allow lots of hand on experience so both kids and adults can interact or enjoy the exhibits more in a relaxed and playful atmosphere.

Don't forget to consult the map of the museum so you can plan your visit too and not get lost going to and from various levels.
If you are a matured person and are into arts- painting, sculptures, and the like then you can proceed to the art section of the museum.

Inside the Great Museum in Chicago U.S.A.
Whatever your interests and preferences, I am positive there is something that will interest you in every museum.

Find out where the special and rare exhibits are. For example- Chinese terracotta warriors specially flown from China for just a certain time so find out in case you have not seen them as they are valuable and you save time and money this way. Or the Utzi exhibit at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum where an "Iced Man"" was found in Europe and was the subject of lots of studies and experiments detailing how ancient people lived in those very cold areas. This exhibit fascinated us as the man was preserved and we learned more about their lifestyle and their survival methods.

Learn the history of the place you're living in. In Tasmania for instance, there is a small heritage museum near the shopping precinct we often go to.

One day, to our surprise, we went in and found that it was an exquisite museum full of memorabilia, exhibits and collections depicting the interesting history of the area we've recently moved into. It showed when the first settlers came to the region, even their furnitures, tools and industry which were uniquely displayed that people can actually touch them (except a few that are enclosed or closed off ) and explore and imagine how the people in the early days lived.

It was one of our most refreshing visits and it was FREE! The place just had a box for donations if you would like to give or not, it was up to the visitor.

So the next time you visit a country or area, find out where the museums are and you you'll know more about it in just a few hours!

Ancient Artefacts - Prefecture of Kerkyra CORFU
Many museums are free so find out before you go.
Canberra, the capital of Australia has a War Memorial and Parliament House with museums that are free and very educational places to see for both adults and kids. They will marvel at the vehicles and arms and weapons used, or where the politicians do their arguing, etc.

Make sure you know the rules- especially for photography.
We've taken a lot of photos of many exhibits as long as flash is not used.Often museums disallow flash photography. Unless the place has very valuable art pieces like the one in Italy's Sistine Chapel with the Last Supper (with very sophisticated security measures), then by all means take your camera (often videotaping is NOT allowed also).

Explore not just the inside but outside of the museum as well.
Another famous place here in Tassie is the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) which as changing exhibits of various works and a steady collection of old and new works as the name suggests. Just outside are fascinating sculptural works enough to make you look inside! People all over the world have marveled at the art works there but for us, the ones outside are enough, there are peacocks and chicken, picnic areas so families don't even have to get inside and pay the entrance, a big bonus!

Make sure you eat a good meal before going as it can be a few hours or more, based on your interest.
If you go on an empty stomach, it will not be enjoyable. However, museums have cafes in many places, but prices can be prohibitive too. Or, find out if the place has picnic areas where you can take your kids if they get a bit edgy or bored. Then you can come back once they have relaxed again.

So aside from historical information, there's also the artistic and cultural values which we could develop in our kids and even within us. Whatever we fancy in our present life, we could perhaps draw inspiration from the pieces, art works and other stuff inside the museums or art galleries.

Next time you intend to visit a museum, have an open mind.
It can make you change your view of various facets of society and learn more about each place and then when you finish, you facilitate more learning as you read up more about the area or any interesting piece that made you say,
"Wow, how did he make that?" (for a piece of art for example); Or, how did the ancient men live without modern gadgets or the mobile phone, etc.

Don't stop at one visit, stimulate learning by making a follow up.
Even for your kids, don't stop at the museum visit. Once you leave, talk about what they saw and what interested them and which ones they would like to read up more.
Then as a family you can go and find out more or collect things related to the area that interested you and so forth. Hence, learning is facilitated and every one will benefit from this museum trip after all!

Very Educational Little Museum in Hobart Tasmania AUSTRALIA
So the next time you visit a country or area, find out where the museums are and you'll know more about it in just a few hours!

That's a lot of information to process and you've stimulated your mind during those times.

Don't be put off with the old notion that museums are boring! They are wonderful areas of exploration- you might even discover you have some items left by your ancestors/grandparents that may be important and before you know it, you'll be back to the museum to show the staff and ask them if they are valuable, not just for monetary value but for the information they hold!

Give museums a go and learn from the experience if you plan your trip well.

Author Bio: 
Marie is a Tasmania-based columnist whose writings appeared in journals and community newspapers in Australia. Her work "If I were a flower" won in a writing competition held in Melbourne. She is the founder of Global Citizens Care Movement helping needy children of her native country, the Philippines.