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A Guide to Making the Most out of a Museum Visit

Growing up, I loved school field trips to the museum. Museums are just as fun to visit now as they were back then. If you ever have a free Sunday or are staying on campus during break, visiting a museum is a great way to spend your day. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of your museum visit!

1. Go on a day when admission is free.

One of the most exciting places I went while backpacking through Spain was Madrid because of all its awesome museums like the Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen-Bornemisza. However, I quickly found that the visits can get a bit pricey for a college student on a budget. A general admission museum ticket is normally 15€. On top of that, there is also the option to rent an audio guide, pay a separate entrance fee for Special Collections or any temporary exhibits, and perhaps purchase something from the gift shop. In order to get around this, I simply went to each museum during its free day, which is always listed on its website. This is something definitely worth taking advantage of. You can arrive when it opens, stay the whole day if you want, and see everything for free.

2. Go during an event.

This past Sunday was the Very Hungry Caterpillar Day at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, located on the Hampshire College campus. The event included crafts, readings, food, contests, and all kinds of activities open to anyone with a museum admission ticket. Of course events vary based on the type of museum. For example, the Met in New York City, on special days, hosts classical music concerts, symposiums, drop-in drawing classes, evening receptions, and performances, all free with museum admission. Here at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, the Italian department has in the past hosted a “scavenger hunt” night, and aside from that there are always lots of other exciting events (that normally have food) and lectures from guest artists. Museum events like these are especially fun if you bring a friend or a date.

3. Do some research beforehand

In huge museums like the Louvre, you never want to spend too much of your visit looking at the map or losing time trying to figure out which iconic piece you want to see next and where to go. If you do at least a little bit of research beforehand, you will have a better idea of the space and everything you want to make sure to see. But more importantly, with some extensive knowledge about the artists and history, you will have a greater appreciation of what is before your eyes, and it will make your experience that much more enjoyable. Even checking out the museum website the night before you go can be helpful.

4. Don’t take pictures

Many museums allow you to take photographs, but some of them completely prohibit it. Either way, putting your phone away is probably a better idea. It can be tempting to take a picture of a work of art you realize you most likely will never see in person for a second time, like the Mona Lisa. However, for that same reason, it’s way better to just respect the time you have, connect with the art, and lose yourself in the moment.

5. Wear comfortable shoes and don’t bring a bunch of stuff

I can say from personal experience that a museum visit can be ruined from uncomfortable shoes. If you are walking around all day, especially if you are in a touristy museum city like Washington DC, realize that your feet might start hurting after a while, and that is an unnecessary distraction. Also don’t plan on bringing a large/heavy handbag—you will probably end up storing it in a locker.

Whether you want to spend a day at the local museum like the one right on our campus, or whether you are on a trip, planning to make it to every museum of Museum Lane in London, it will definitely be a worthwhile experience. Dedicating a few hours to quietly observing art or to learning more history while going through each gallery and display allows us to take a breath amidst the busyness of everyday life.

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