Museum Myth Monday: It’s Weird to Come Alone / A Museum Is No Place To Just Hang Out

Welcome to the second installment of Museum Myth Monday–every Monday for the month of April will be spent debunking some myths about museums. I hope you enjoyed last week, when we explored How To Enter A Museum. Now it’s time to talk about what comes next: I recently heard someone say that they felt strange going to a museum alone, and, along those lines, that “a museum is no place to just hang out.”

This surprised me because two of my favorite things are 1) going to a museum alone, and 2) just hanging out in a museum. In fact, I love spending time alone in museums so much that sometimes when I go with my fiance I put in headphones and wander off. He’ll find me later, I trust, just hanging out.

But apparently not everyone feels this is possible. Or, maybe, not everyone feels that this could be enjoyable.

So. Let’s talk about it.

A museum is a great place to explore with other people, to nudge each other toward your favorite works, or the ones you find less appealing. To talk about what you like and what you don’t, and why.


“Dance of the Nymphs.” Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. They might as well be in a museum gallery, talking excitedly about the work they’re seeing…

But a museum also provides a quiet, contemplative space, to be alone with these thoughts. To be uninterrupted. I’ve also heard people say that they love to come alone because they can go at their own pace: they can linger at a work for a very long time, without having to justify why they’re doing so. Likewise, they can skip right past huge swaths of art without having to suffer alongside a companion who harbors wildly different taste.

jose ap

“Portrait of Jean-Louis Reynier.” Jose Aparicio. 1806. Note how he quietly and contemplatively views the thing that interests him, uninterrupted by a companion.

Or, perhaps you don’t want to think about art at all.

This may seem counterintuitive: why come to an art museum if you aren’t going to think about art?

Well, there a lot of reasons, actually, all of which combine to make it a really nice place to just hang out. Because it’s quiet. Because it’s calming. Because there are nice places to sit, and people smile at you. You can sit and write in a notebook, type into your phone or tablet, sketch, or just stare. There is no sign that says NO LOITERING. In fact, you could consider each work you see to be a sign that says PLEASE LOITER. It’s a wonderful place to take a time out: to breathe, to sit, to wander, to explore.

portrait youngman

“Portrait of a Young Man Weaving a Wreath of Flowers.” Pier Francesco Foschi. ca. 1540. This young man may as well be sitting on a bench in our gallery, staring into space and thinking about anything at all: the person he loves, what he wants for dinner, etc.

We at the UMFA welcome all of you to do come with friends or alone, to come full of purpose or just to wander. And if you’re a student, or a member, you get in FREE!

So, what do you think? Tell us about your favorite ways to experience a museum!


One comment

  1. Pingback: Museum Myth Monday: Museums are Cool | Utah Museum of Fine Arts

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