When Amanda was visiting me, we talked about things to do in Boston, and we realized that we are not compatible museumgoers. It’s funny that museums are especially a kind of thing that you can’t enjoy with just anyone. We all have our favorite people to do certain things with, but there are things that we can do with everyone and find them enjoyable, or at least palatable. Museums, though, require really compatible companions.
I noticed this in Prague when my friend Emily became the only person interested in going to museums, for one, and we both had the same way of mostly ignoring each other but sometimes talking about the art or exhibits, and other times making silly comments, like how I really want reproductions of the plates that Salvador Dalí painted on for my house. Things worked out perfectly for us both because we didn’t expect the museum to be a place where we were going to socialize, per se, and also we wanted to spend about the same amount of time there. It’s hard to find a museum soulmate.
My parents took me to museums a lot when I was a kid. They also took me to tons of old missions and churches and things, so even when I was bored, I had to learn how to deal with it. Now I don’t usually deal with museums and historic sites because I enjoy them, but even when I find myself bored, I use the same techniques I did when I was a child. And honestly, I think museums are places where even the best intentioned people go for selfish reasons–you want people to think you are worldly, maybe, or you want to be able to say you’ve seen a real Picasso, or you look at the art and imagine which pieces you would like to own–or is that just me? I’m willing to bet, at least for creative types, that museums also present themselves as good places to think and plan and create, whether that’s because there are benches where you can sketch or journal, or because reading placards about the work inspires you in their themes or statements, or because you see an image and you want to tell its story, or probably other forms inspiration that don’t occur to me because I don’t make visual art, nor do I create much musically, so my experience there is limited. My point is, even though I really am interested in learning and seeing and experiencing, probably the underlying reason I go to museums is because my interdisciplinary, multimedia, multitasking mind loves that they are spaces dedicated to imagination, and they offer space for you to use yours.
I didn’t mean to sound so cheesy. But I think I have wandered through museums and come up with more ideas or clarity about projects, whether for school or myself, than in any other place. Plus, you get to look very smart and creative if you walk around a museum with a moleskine and sometimes pull it out to jot stuff down. Also, museums make me want to be an art collector. Also, writing this makes me think that I have definitely said all of this before.
My perfect museum companion is this:
This is why I tend to go to museums alone. The best thing about museums, then, might be that they have taught me how to be comfortable being alone in public. Because it’s only there and in bookstores that I am okay with that.