Wednesday 20 August 2014

Are Museums Boring?

We were talking dull museums on Twitter today.

It started when someone enthusiastically endorsed this article from the UK's Daily Telegraph, "21 Reasons Why I Hate Museums".

Aside from wondering what had happened to articles structured around a mere five or ten points, I found myself in two minds about this piece.

On one hand, I kind of agree with its main point.

Too many people trudge around museums while on vacation out of a sense of duty, regardless of whether the exhibits are engaging or they're interested in its subject matter.

To my mind, this approach is a hangover from the 19th century idea that travel should always be educational and instructive.

By contrast, I've been in cities where I've read a description of the major museums, and then decided I'd rather go on a walking tour or hang out in an interesting neighbourhood.

I can't speak highly enough of this latter strategy, if thought and research is applied to the selection of neighbourhood. I've had some great articles result from simply exploring in this manner (eg my day hanging out in St Roch, Quebec).

On the other hand, I feel the Telegraph article is unfair in dismissing museum visits altogether.

For my money, there are two key elements which must be in place for a museum visit to be a highlight of your holiday:

1. The museum has a creative and stimulating approach to addressing its subject;
2. The subject is something you're personally interested in.

The second point is really the most important, as a personal interest in the subject matter will excuse a fair bit of dodgy presentation.

As proof that interesting museums exist (at least for me), here are twelve accounts I've written of museums which were personal highlights because the above elements were in play:

What about you? Which museums moved you, and why? Leave a comment below.

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