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What I’m Looking For in a Museum Visit…

by Tanya Brock, Dayton History on

Wouldn’t it be great to know what our visitors want? Well, periodically the authors of this blog ask museum goers to tell us what they are looking for in a museum visit.

Heather, mom of an 11-year-old and 9-year-old, is an avid museum goer. She is the primary planner when it comes to vacations, weekend trips, and rainy day activities. Below are her thoughts and reflections:

Exploring drums at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

Exploring drums at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

What do you look for in a museum visit?
When we visit museums, I want to make sure there are exhibits my kids will enjoy. There is nothing worse than trying to get a bored kid to cooperate and let you walk around and enjoy looking. I also try to make sure that there is at least one area that is interactive. Even most art museums have places where kids can touch something. This helps them to keep their hands to themselves in the rest of the museum.

What do you avoid in museums?
The only thing I will avoid in a museum is a line. If the kids have to wait over an hour to see an exhibit, they will not want to spend any time looking at the exhibit. I made an exception to this one time. We saw the Dead Sea Scrolls in Cincinnati and it took us a good three hours to see them. One kid was fine and waited patiently and the other (along with my husband) quit the exhibit and hung out in the gift shop so, we didn’t really get our money’s worth.

What do you wish museums did better?
I don’t know what I wish museums did better. I guess I wish art museums were more kid friendly. Maybe if they had a special tour just for families that was a little more fun and where kids felt like they could ask questions. Art museums can feel stuffy. We’ve had some great guides at National Parks that made the kids feel like they were part of the tour. I would like to see more of this at art museums.

Special exhibit time at the Cincinnati Art Museum

Special exhibit time at the Cincinnati Art Museum

What ensures you will return to a particular museum?
Our overall enjoyment level and new exhibits will ensure that we return. There are some museums that we feel like we have memorized so we don’t feel the need to visit them anymore. I like when there is something new for us to see or do.

Other thoughts?
We plan most of our trips around museums or national parks/landmarks. We are going to Chicago in a couple of weeks and plan to go to three museums while we’re there. This is something we enjoy doing very much as a family.

There are many “Heathers” out there that are looking to visit museums (like yours) with their families. Do you have methods in place to engage everyone in the group? How are you helping them learn about those methods before AND during their visit? What do you do to help families envision how all members will be able to enjoy the visit? Please share.

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