Museums: What To Do

For the past two weeks I've been talking about museum etiquette, both within the galleries and when it comes to donating collections items. Today let's wrap up on a positive note by talking about all the wonderful things you can do to make museums better.

Image courtesy of

1. Visit

First and foremost, visit your museums. Whether it's a large-scale operation like the Met or your local historical society, we work hard to provide you with quality exhibitions and programming, but it can get frustrating when no one comes to these events.

Me in historical costume at Old York, 2009. Oh yes, we museum folks love to dress up for our events.

When I worked at the Museums of Old York in Maine several years ago, for instance, we handed out more than 50 free museum passes to beachgoers. Of those, only one was redeemed. One ticket, and we were less than a mile away from the beach.

The Dallas Museum of Art is famous for its Late Nights. Image courtesy of

If you're worried about the museum being a stuffy old attic of an experience where everyone is expected to partake in a Quaker's Meeting-like level of silence, don't worry. A lot of museums have made a point of offering programming that appeals to younger professionals, with late evenings, music nights, and team-ups with microbreweries becoming increasingly common. RMAC recently launched a new evening series, for example, called pARTy After Hours, which featured a film screening, a cash bar, informal tours, art-making activities, live music, and even a drop-off center for younger kids. And if you prefer more traditional, lecture-style programming, museums offer that that too.

Here I am talking with visitors about a Peter Hurd painting at one of our Sunday Coversations, April 2017.

Today museums strive for variety, so chances are there's something you'll find interesting. Follow us on Facebook, subscribe to our mailing list, or give us a call to find out what's happening. And if we're not offering a program or exhibition that you'd like to see, let us know! Explora, a children's museum in Albuquerque, started its popular adult night after getting requests from the public. So if you have a new or interesting idea you want to see the museum try, share it!

Adult Night at Explora. Image courtesy of

2. Get the kids involved

The best way to get people used to something is to introduce them to it at an early age, whether it's food, language, or culture. The same applies to museums. Today's children will grow up to be tomorrow's visitors and patrons, so we want them to feel comfortable with art and artifacts. A lot of places offer special interactive spaces for kids these days, or provide activities such as scavenger hunts that you can do with the whole family. RMAC and other institutions also offer special kids' classes throughout the year, which provide another layer of meaningful interaction. Call your museum and ask what kind of family programming they have, or check our their website to see if they have scavenger hunts or other interactive materials available. There are few things more satisfying as a museum professional than watching multiple generations bond, learn and connect together through art, so do feel free to bring the whole family. 

3. Give

Image courtesy of

I've already talked about how to give objects, but there are many other valuable resources you can give to the museum:
  • Time: Museums depend on volunteers to run efficiently. Whether they're stuffing envelopes for mass mailing, providing docent tours, or organizing the library, volunteers help us do our jobs better by giving us the time we need to focus on important projects and other big-picture issues. If you want to help your local museum soar, become a volunteer. The staff will appreciate it beyond measure.
  • Money: Every museum achieves its budget differently, but a large part of it comes from donors. Whether you're donating money for a new wing, or a few dollars on your way out the door, every donation is immensely appreciated.
  •  Expertise: Are you knowledgeable in a particular subject? Get involved in your local museum and share what you know. A lot of places are always looking for guest speakers for lectures or gallery talks, and curators depend on an extensive web of experts to help them cover a variety of subjects. Places like the Albuquerque Museum have also begun hosting community-curated exhibitions, allowing local experts the opportunity to put together a show. If you're an expert in something, chances are museums will want to put it to good use.

4. Advocate

Image courtesy of

Do you love your museum? Then tell it to the world. Tell your friends about a fun exhibition or event you attended. Write to your local congressman about the importance of museums. If the Museum has a board of trustees, look into becoming a member. We know how to toot our own horn, but the argument is always more convincing when the community speaks up.

Image courtesy of

So that's it. If you haven't visited your local museum recently, please do. And if you have, stop by again, chances are they're offering something new.

Just don't touch the art.