Monday, October 10, 2016

How to Get the Most Out of Your Museum Visit

Erica Vetsch here: I am so thrilled to be here with the HHH writers! I am sure as time goes by, we will get to know one another better, but I will tell you one thing right off the top: I am a museum junkie. Day trips, family vacations, research excursions...they all wind up taking me to museums to learn and see and experience the amazing history that is all around us. 

Along the way, I've learned a few tips to make museum-going a good experience, and I would love to share them with you.

1. Make a Plan.

Before you set out, make a plan. Research what hours and days your desired museum destination is open. Often museums are closed on Mondays, some days they offer discounted rates, and some museums are seasonal. Find out before you leave the house, because nobody wants to be disappointed arriving to find a museum closed for the day.

Glensheen Mansion, Duluth MN

 2. Know Your Audience

Who will be in your group? Writers on a research field trip? Small children? Elderly folks? Not all museums will be interesting to every demographic. Young children often do best with hands-on museums where they can touch and hear and experience history through age-appropriate displays and activities. Museums such as old houses or living history locations with lots of stairs or long walks might not be as fun for the elderly. Docent-led tours will be most interesting for those who like a personal guide and someone to answer questions.

My children (In the red blouse and the ball cap) feeding chickens at Historic Forestville.

 3. Ask About Museum Policies

My husband is a wonderful photographer, and when we go to museums, he inquires first thing about their photography policies. Some museums do not allow any photography, some will allow photography in selected areas of the museum or only without using the flash, and some museums want you to snap away. If the museum you're attending allows photography, YAY! Take lots of pictures. Here are a few tips when it comes to photography in museums:

  • When photographing textiles, don't use flash
Confederate Flag from the Texas Civil War Museum, taken sans flash.

Camera flashes damage cloth, cause it to fade, and eventually to disintegrate. Respect the artifact and consider all the people who would like to see it years from now and turn off your flash.

  • Take photos of the signage that accompanies an artifact so you can remember the details when you get home.
The sign that accompanied the above flag.
This is so helpful for research. Details are important, and though I always think I will remember what made a particular artifact interesting...I need the reminder of what the signage said.

  •  Take some pictures with people in them!
My husband in front of the John Wayne Birthplace Home in Winterset, IA
While it is nice to have photos of all the cool things you saw, don't forget the people you were with. It's the people that make the visit, and it's the people that you will want to share the memories with later.

The last museum I visited was the Mill Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post in Onamia, MN. What's the last museum you visited?

Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

You can visit her online at and on Facebook at Erica Vetsch Author


  1. Thank you for posting this Erica! The last museum I visited is actually the one in my town....I'm an active volunteer there! Your suggestions will not only help visitors have a better experience but also helps museum staff/volunteers give the visitors that better experience. A little research on things like hours/days open instead of complaining to the greeter, who can't control those things, sure goes a long way in making things easier and more fun for everyone. Thank you for the post! And for the neat pictures!


    1. I am so glad you enjoyed the post. I am curious as to what type of museum you volunteer at? Is it a history museum? Does your museum have any policies that you wish folks knew about in advance?

    2. Ours is a history museum. We feature the history of our county with exhibits on Native Americans, logging, mining, railroad, the Forest Service, etc. The most fascinating thing about our museum is that it was built by volunteers, is still 100% operated by volunteers, and is totally donation, and occasional grants, supported.

      You ask a good question. One policy we wish people knew about and would be considerate on is the no food and drink inside the museum policy. A lot of museums have a similar rule to help protect exhibits, make cleaning easier, and especially in keeping mice out. Another thing people should check into is pet friendliness before visiting museums. Leaving a dog in the car for several hours in the summer isn't a great idea. But many museums will freely allow dogs on leashes on the grounds, like we do.

      I actually volunteer at the front desk, among the many other hats that I wear, and I just want to say that we LOVE our visitors. The simple thank you's from adults and the excitement of the kids is what keeps us going. For museum visitors, check to see if they have a comment book and leave a comment for them. Those comments are read and they are appreciated, more than you can ever know.

    3. That is wonderful information! Thank you, Jasmine, and I hope I get to visit your museum someday! :)

    4. I'd love to show you around the museum if you ever make it up to Montana. We are about hours west of Glacier Park. :)

  2. I never knew that about the flash. The last museum I visited was in the Oroville California visitors center. There is actually an exhibit featuring my late grandmother. She let the museum make a wax replica of her for their native American display.