to Learn More About Art
Part Five: Visiting an Art Museum
novice, a visit to an art museum can be a daunting experience.
Most museums are very large and require stamina and a good sense
of direction to navigate. Taking some time to learn more about
the museum before you go is the best way to ensure a more informative
and enjoyable visit.
have a web site, so be sure to check it out before you go; you'll
be far more prepared for what you are going to see. To find a
museum in your area, link to the
WWW Virtual Library web site. This site has links to museums
in the United States.
or large, most art museums will typically contain two types of
collections: Permanent Collections and Special Exhibitions.
This is art that the museum owns, either through a direct purchase
or has been donated by a wealthy patron.
vary in what kind of art can be found in their permanent collection.
A general collection can range from ancient to contemporary. Whereas
a specialized collection will contain a more narrowed focus such
as American art, photography, or women artists.
the web site to get familiar with what kind of art the museum
has in its permanent collection.
Special exhibits are those events that will only be available
to the public for a limited period of time. Typically these exhibits
feature work by a particular artist gathered from many museums
or represent a specific art movement. It often takes years of
planning, research, and a collaborative effort between museums
around the world to mount some of these exhibits.
the web site for details about the special exhibitions on view
at the museum. It's a good way to get familiar with important
background information before you get there. Also find out if
there will be an additional charge for the special exhibition
and purchase your tickets in advance.
1. Museum's location
2. Phone numbers
4. Parking Information
5. Hours (very important-many museums are usually closed on Mondays)
6. Admission price
7. Information about tours
several strategies to organize your visit:
After previewing the museum's web site, you should have an idea
about what you will see during your visit. If you're interested
in looking at something in particular, be sure to pick up a map
and any other brochures available at the Information Desk. The
museum map will be an essential tool to help you locate a specific
work of art. Knowing where it can be found in the museum will
save you a lot of valuable time.
Docents are volunteers who have received specialized training
in providing visitors with information about the museum and its
permanent collection or a special exhibition. These tours are
often, if not always, free.
For a fee, you will be given a cassette/CD player and headphones
to tour selected examples from the museum's permanent collection.
Audio tours are almost always available for special exhibitions.
There is often a series of lectures and/or concerts offered at
the museum to accompany a special exhibition or a featured artist
in the museum's collection. The speakers are typically art historians
who are experts in a particular area or museum curators who have
organized the exhibition. These events can be highly informative
ways to learn more about a particular artist or artistic movement.
Educational opportunities abound at most museums. These might
include a children's/family activity room, art classes, research
centers, and libraries. Check with the museum to see exactly what
Most museums contain two essential destinations for any visitor:
a café and a bookstore or gift shop. At some point during your
visit you will long for a place to sit down, grab something to
eat and discuss what you've seen with a friend. Museum cafés can
often be pretty pricey but they are convenient and the food is
usually pretty good.
bookstores are great places to pick up posters, postcards, or
books about the museum's collection. If you are visiting to see
a special exhibition, do consider buying the exhibition catalog.
These are usually very expensive, but if you are really interested
in the exhibition these catalogs are well worth the cost. They
are written by the top scholars in their field and the images
included are usually of the highest quality.
INFORMATION TO KNOW
you're navigating the museum on your own or being guided by docent
you will encounter two types of information cards posted on a
wall near a particular work of art.
This card contains all the data pertaining to a work of art. Most
cards will include the following information (but not always in
1. Artist's name
2. Artist's nationality
3. Artist's date of birth/death
8. Name of Collection
9. Acquisition number
The information on this card is prepared by the museum's research
experts (curators) provides an explanation about a work of art
and/or details about the artist's life. The curatorial staff consists
of highly specialized experts who have written these comments
in order to help visitors have more background information in
order to better understand a work of art.
many museum professionals have questioned the importance of these
cards. Supporters believe that they provide a service to the public
by helping them understand what they are looking at-especially
contemporary art. Critics, on the other hand, think that people
spend more time reading the cards than actually looking at the
at least an arm's length away from the works of art. And remember
to NEVER touch paintings, sculpture, or any other work of art!
2. Talk quietly in order not to disturb other visitors. You may
always of course ask questions of the museum staff.
museums have rules about using photography. Be sure to inquire
about their policy before using any camera/video equipment.
bringing any bulky backpacks or large purses. If you do, you will
probably be asked to check it. These large objects slung over
your shoulder might bump a work of art and damage it.
you want to take any notes, use a pencil only.
food or beverages are allowed in exhibit areas.
at the museum early or late; parking is easier and the museum
will be far less crowded.
yourself-you'll never see everything in one day!