Stop Trying to See the Whole Museum in One Visit

When it comes to museums, our ambition and curiosity often exceed what our bodies and brains can handle. If you really want to enjoy your visit to the museum, plan just a couple of exhibits.

Most of the world’s greatest museums are absolutely huge. You walk inside, determined to see it all in one day, but end up crashing about an hour later, browsing window after window. Eyes blur, legs ache, the brain pays less attention to each display, and other visitors get on your nerves (“Could you hurry up and take a damn photo of yourself so I can read the description ?!”). This is unofficially referred to as “museum fatigue,” and it can ruin the day you once worried about.

Luckily for you museum, there is a simple solution: don’t try to see it all. Pick at most two sections of the museum that you really care about and spend some time there. Don’t want to wrestle with the crowd to see the surprisingly small Mona Lisa? Skip this. Don’t like medieval tapestries? Better look at the Impressionists if you really like it. After that, maybe you will go to the gift shop and bounce off. And I mean spend an hour or less there and afford to miss out on most of the museum. When I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art last month, I only went to the Ancient Egypt section and the gift shop. It was amazing. I saw what I wanted to see, should have spent more time with exhibits that I really care about, and I still had time for other fun things. I really didn’t feel like I was missing out on much.

This may seem wasteful to some, and even blasphemy to avid museum researchers, but it’s important that you manage your expectations, accept your limited human attention, and respect your burnout. I know you want to see all of this – so do I. – but maybe you can come back another time and see other things if you really want to . You will most likely try this two-piece method and leave the museum with as much pleasure, if not more, than if you saw it all.


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