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Author Topic: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?  (Read 5367 times)

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Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« on: March 29, 2013, 06:08:48 PM »
I know this probably isn't anybody's idea of a massive breach of etiquette but I would like your opinions for future reference.

A few years ago, my DH and I along with another couple decided to take advantage of the local art museum's free admission day. No one couple invited the other - it was just a mutual "hey, let's get together and check this out" kind of thing. The museum is set up like many others - about 10 smaller rooms, separated by walls, but connected by large open doors. The show was a wonderful exhibit on Auguste Rodin and included videos on modern-day sculpture making. Well, I kind of got a little immersed in reading all the cards attached for each piece and looking at the details of the sculptures and maybe I watched the video a little too long and lost track of the rest of my party among the various rooms. After I felt I'd gotten my fill, I headed for the exit to the exhibit where I found DH and the other couple sitting on a bench outside. OC didn't seem put out but I could tell DH was irked. When I asked how long they had been waiting DH said "quite a while" but couldn't give me an actual time frame.

The reason I thought about this again was that we were initially planning to check out another exhibit at the same museum but with another couple this weekend. I made a joke that DH better warn the new couple that I like to read every word on the cards at art exhibits. "Yes, that was very rude of you to make our friends wait on you like at the Rodin exhibit," he said. Oh.  :-[

So my question is: when you're visiting an art museum as a member of a group, what is the polite form? Travel from room to room sticking to the group or split up as if you were individual patrons to go at your own pace?

It turns out that the new couple can't make the event this weekend so I'm just asking so that I'm not rude if this comes up again.


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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2013, 06:10:57 PM »
I'm happy to go at my own pace and meet at the exit.  I don't think you were rude and if your husband and the other couple were that bothered your husband should have come and found you and told you quietly that everyone was waiting for you.


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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2013, 06:23:51 PM »
If the everyone in the group takes about the same time it makes sense to wait at the end of each room to stay together. If one person is a lot slower, I think it's best if the others go ahead. However I would not find it rude if the faster ones tell the slow one when they are done with the exhibit and I don't think it would be rude of them to expect the slow person to finish up shortly or otherwise decide on what they will do while the slow person finishes up.

I think if you really want to study an exhibit in depth while the rest of your group wants to just browse, it might be best to go on separately. I have sent my family to the science museum in London while I enjoyed the Victoria & Albert museum across the street to my heart's content (my DH and DS would have been bored out of their mind within less than half an hour) during a visit to the UK.

I once had the reverse problem: While I was 7 months pregnant a friend was visiting and we all went to a special exhibit at a local art museum we were all interested in. Because I needed to sit down frequently I went through each room a bit faster than the others to allow me to sit down for a bit without making them wait.


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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2013, 06:34:28 PM »
Does the museum have a nice cafe? If so, maybe your DH and the other couple could spend the extra time there while you finish.


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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2013, 06:36:43 PM »
I know when I'm in museums, I tend to go through a room pretty quickly, and not read everything associated with the exhibits. But for me its because my eyesight stinks and sometimes its just too hard to read. I just either wander around some more, until whoever I'm with is done, or find a bench and sit and wait. doesn't bother me a bit. Or I'll let them know I need to use the facilities and do so.  And every now and then something catches my eye and I might spend extra time looking at it

I've never had anyone tell me I was annoying for not keeping up, or going to fast.  I think its sort of understood that everyone goes at their own pace, and you meet up eventually.


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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2013, 07:11:48 PM »
I'm with siamesecat....when I go to art museums with my parents, they're much faster than me - I read everything.  So they just wait at various spots along the way for me to catch up - sometimes my mom will come back to me and say "We're done and will be sitting over there....don't rush.  We're fine."  No one gets upset with anyone else.
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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2013, 07:14:53 PM »
Actually, I think it's pretty rude of somebody to get upset with somebody else without any attempt at communication.  If DH really wanted to hurry you along, then he should have quietly discussed it with you and come to a mutually acceptable solution. Otherwise, he was the one that was rude for expecting you to read his mind. 
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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2013, 07:19:53 PM »
I think that you should look at the art at your own pace.  It's good to discuss it ahead of time and agree on a meet-up place/time though.  I hate going slower than my usual pace OR faster!
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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2013, 08:27:05 PM »
I think this is one of those situations where a little communication goes a long way. If you know you're likely to take a while, give them a heads up. If you like to move at a faster pace, maybe plan to break up and meet up later. And be the driver.

Quite a few years back, I was at a large museum for a special exhibit with several family members. We had all ridden together. Two of us took our time while the other two moved at a much faster pace. They didn't think anyone could possibly take as long as we were and assumed we went to another exhibit. So they left. Yes, drove away. Don't do that to people.  >:(


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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2013, 09:20:50 PM »
My husband also reads everything and takes his time in museums--I'm much faster and I can't stand in one place for long.  We just have a set meeting time and place and go at our own speed.  I've usually seen all the exhibits, bought something in the museum shop and taken a nap on a bench before he and our friends are done--I just make sure everyone understands ahead of time.  I think your husband should have come back and said something to you, if this was the first time he has seen you in "museum-mode'; if not, he should have figured it out by now?!?


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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2013, 09:30:37 PM »
My DH and I frequently have this debate. We were at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this summer and he kept hurrying me out, when I wanted to read up on all the interesting facts (in some cases there were actual letters on display). He's a look at a display and move on type, I like to absorb all the details.


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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2013, 09:46:23 PM »
I definitely think it is rude to keep people waiting. However, it's also not particularly polite to rush someone. There isn't much to do about what has already happened, but I suggest approaching this kind of thing differently going forward.

The best solution would probably be for you to go to museum exhibits on your own, or with other people who you know like to take it slow. If you find yourself in a similar situation in the future, suggest splitting up for an hour and then meeting back at a central location to see how everyone feels. Decide whether you need more time or not, and put it to an (informal) vote. Finally, I agree that you should have a word with your DH. Tell him that you'd prefer that he come and find you when everyone else seems to be wrapping up so nobody needs to wait "quite awhile."
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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2013, 09:56:55 PM »
Even Dh and I used to frequently split up while visiting museums when we were travelling.

I remember one in Scotland - I think it was Stirling Castle.  He got into a long conversation with a curator and noticed that it was near closing time and said "sorry, I think I'd better leave, I need to find my wife".  Curator:  "which one of you has the money?"  Husband:  "I do".  Curator:  "don't worry, she'll find you".

And it actually worked. :)


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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2013, 10:49:11 PM »
I do the same thing, read the cards, stand back and enjoy the exhibits. I didn't think you were rude but I do think your husband should have found you sooner and said something . It totally wouldn't have occurred to me to hurry up because to me that is the whole point of going to a museum in the first place and I would have assumed that everyone was doing the same. I remember once being in the London science museum with D's who was reading every single card and I had had enough after five minutes. So I found rt he cafe and we made up that he would find me every x minutes. On a different trip we were with then husband in DC.we went to the air and space museum, OK was bored out of my mind after five minutes. I asked how long they planned
To be there, they said 'all day' so I went to the museum of art and to american history etc

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Re: Museum etiquette - keep up or fall behind?
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2013, 12:33:31 AM »
I think it's rude to expect someone to rush through an exhibit because you don't want to read labels.  Why is the faster person, absolved of anything and the slower one rude?

  If the faster ones don't want to be waiting -perhaps they can go through again, or read or have a coffee or something.

Polite form, IMHO, is for everyone to go at their own pace and no one to be impatient with anyone.