Last week’s first post for my new Get out of the House column was dedicated to a rather ambitious and adventurous topic: Winter Camping. While I personally love the stillness and peace (and excuse to eat large amounts of S’mores) that come with gearing up and enjoying cold-weather hiking, I know it’s not for everyone. So this week I thought I’d tackle something a little simpler and warmer: Museum Days!
Almost anywhere you live, there’s a gallery or museum near you. So what if it’s not the Met? (BTW, this history of their badges is very cool.) Some of the best museums are the ones that cater to local eccentricities, personal collections and celebrations of the weird and wonderful. So today I thought I’d focus on ideas for getting out of the house, staying warm and being inspired by a trip to your local museum. I’ll share links for finding great (and unexpected) museums near you, tips for what to do and what to bring (the full shopping list is after the jump!) and how to expand your trip into a full museum day with friends or a solo trip. Happy museum-going! xo, grace
*In the spirit of really committing to getting out of the house, I’d love to buy museum tickets for you and a friend! Just leave a comment in the comment section below about what museum you’d like to visit in your town and why. I’ll pick my favorite comment next Wednesday and pay for your tickets to the museum!
The full post continues after the jump . . .
THE BASICS: WHERE TO GO
As much as I love design, I’m not actually a huge fan of most big museums. They tend to feel impersonal and cold, so I’m always trying to find great small museums to visit. Whether you’re looking for something large and all-encompassing or just want to find something quirky and cool in your area, here are some great places to start.
My Top 10 Favorite Museums:
- The Natural History Museum (NYC)
- The Wagner Free Institute of Science (Philadelphia)
- American Visionary Art Museum (Baltimore)
- Tenement Museum (NYC)
- Museum of Contemporary Craft (Portland, OR)
- The Philip Johnson Glass House (CT)
- Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (Virginia)
- Noguchi Museum (NYC)
- The Cloisters (NYC)
- Neon Museum and Graveyard (NV)
Where to Find Museums Near You:
- Museums by State
- Small Museums in the US
- Design Museums in the US
- Fashion Museums
- 10 Strange and Obscure Museums in the US
- 11 More Unusual Museums in the US
- Historic House Museums
- List of Museum Ships
- Free Museums in the US
Image via Metropolitan Museum of Art
THE BASICS: WHAT TO DO
Aside from the obvious viewing of interesting/beautiful/obscure/strange objects and art, a museum day, for me anyway, is about tying in related activities that create one big fun package. Here’s an example:
- Pick a museum and theme (e.g., the Met, Impressionists).
- Plan a meal option based on that choice. (For the Impressionists, how about a French bistro brunch?)
- Bring activities to match. (For the Impressionists, you could bring portable watercolor kits and a notepad to use inside the museum.)
- Based on your findings at the museum, plan an extra activity. (Inspired by Monet’s Water Lilies, you could check out a local garden or plant nursery to see what inspired those paintings.)
- Document your day with photos and put them in a scrapbook, using digital frame borders so it feels like a tiny museum.
Two tips our whole team agrees on: Choose one exhibition to focus on at bigger museums. When a museum is SO big, it’s easy to glaze over and get overwhelmed by all the art. So pick one area (e.g., Egyptian art) and really take your time and focus on it. Next, try to go on a weekday morning if you can. The traffic is slower, and you have a better chance of getting time and space to stop, photograph and draw if you want to.
A student tip from Max: If you go to the museum’s information desk and bring your student ID, you can often get a discount or a free ticket, even if it isn’t advertised. It never hurts to ask!
Image via Terrier & Lobster
THE BASICS: WHAT TO TAKE
I love to bring a few things with me to museums because I get bored easily. Really easily. You’ll of course want to check your specific museum’s list of do’s and don’ts for their policies on everything, but in general, I like to bring:
- A lightweight bag, shoes and a sweater: Even the lightest bags and accessories feel like they weigh a ton after walking around all day. Lighten the load, and your feet (and shoulders) will thank you later in the day.
- Drawing tools and paper: I love being able to sit down and right notes or sketch out pictures and ideas inspired by what I’m seeing.
- Portable watercolors: I’m not much of an artist, but I love to put down simple color palettes that are inspired by the paintings I see. Sometimes cameras don’t get the color balance right, and it’s nice to jot down something on your own.
- Camera: Not all museums allow photography, so please follow any rules listed at the museum.
- Museum apps: These days, many museums have cool free apps that you can download on your phone to use while you walk around. Check your local museum to see what they offer.
- A small treat budget: I’ll allocate a small amount ($20) to spend on a memento to bring home. I cheesily love little mementos from museums, even if it’s something fun like Astronaut Ice Cream.
Image above: 1. Camera Strap, $85 | 2. Dupatta Nara Scarf, $188 | 3. Watercolor Postcards with Kit, $18 | 4. Travel Watercolor Set, $22 | 5. Watercolor Postcards, $3.99 | 6. Moleskine Sketchbook, $11.17 | 7 . Watercolor Brush Set, $14.99 | 8. General’s Charcoal Pencils (72-pack), $60.25 | 9. Bookhou Tote, $88 | 10. Oil Pastels, $6.95
THE BASICS: WHAT TO REMEMBER
Every museum has different policies when it comes to photography, touching, proximity to artwork, etc., so please be sure to check those guidelines before you arrive.
Here are some other good karma suggestions to keep in mind that will help everyone at the museum enjoy their time:
- Take your time and move on. Everyone wants a chance to see a particular painting, so try not to stand in front of something too long before giving someone else a chance to look. You can always set up away from the artwork at a different angle if you want to draw it, or circle back around again for another look.
- Keep voices and headphones at a reasonable level. In general, it seems like most people want to have a peaceful experience in museums. So yelling, loud laughing and blasting music or audio tours on headphones aren’t very helpful.
- Keep an eye on small children. I think all children should have the chance to enjoy museums, but it’s a big help if parents can hold their hands or keep a close eye on them. I’ll never forget getting bumped into a sculpture at the MET by a little kid who was running around like crazy. His parents just shrugged it off, and I got a stern word from the museum guard. (A lot of museums have amazing museum educators that specialize in showing children artwork. Take advantage of those programs if they’re in your area; they’re fantastic.)
- Take cellphone calls outside. Enough said.
- If you’re moving in a large group, try to break up into small subgroups so you’re not blocking doorways and other people’s viewing experience.