I was lucky enough for my last etiquette post to get so much attention. It was entitled Top 25 Airplane Etiquette Rules- Don’t Ever Fly Again Without Them! Based on the heated discussion in the comments, I can see that I hit a sore spot with a lot of people.
In light of recent events, I feel the need to make another list. This time about museum etiquette.
I was in the middle of writing a post about the behavior of college students living in Florence, when I get this article sent to me, American Tourist Knocks Finger Off 14th Century Statue in Italy. Basically, the man tried to either (depending on which story you read) high five or measure his hand against the hand of a 600 year old statue of the Virgin Mary in Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy.
Not only is this upsetting because yet another piece of historical art has succumbed to human hands, but they were American hands. As a lover of Florence and of art, I am sad. As an American, I am embarrassed. In my research, I read many stories of historical pieces of art being damaged or destroyed by disrespectful tourists in Florence. Sadly, the majority were at the hands of my compatriots.
I love my country. but what gives?
All right, listen up!
The Top 20 Museum Etiquette Rules- Don’t Ever Tour Again Without Them!
1. Do not high five the statues. As tempting as it may be, that quick laugh is not going to be worth the total humiliation you will feel when you break a 600 year old statue and the entire world finds out about it.
2. The golden museum rule- DO NOT TOUCH! No matter how tempted you are, RESIST! If everyone touches, nothing will be left for you to admire.
4. Keep your voice down. Discuss the art, that’s what it’s there for. There is no need to escalate conversations to the point of disturbing those around you.
5. For the love of art, if you must get that photo, DON’T use a flash! Ok, even I’m guilty of this one. It’s hard to resist snapping a shot when you are standing in front of one of the most famous masterpieces in the world (like I did when I saw the Statue of David for the first time). With a phone, it’s pretty easy to grab that shot (but don’t think the docents don’t know what you’re doing). The art is incredibly light sensitive and with millions of flashes hitting them, they will be affected.
6. If you don’t enjoy museums, don’t go. It’s when people get bored that they start acting up. If someone is dragging you along, suggest that you wait outside in the piazza with an espresso. The people watching will keep you entertained.
7. Hire a guide! A good guide will keep you interested and give you a whole new perspective on what you see. I personally recommend Alexandra Lawrence, editor-at-large for the Florentine. You will find her current tour schedule here in The Florentine. Molly Mcllwrath is a wonderful family guide in Florence. You can see both Molly’s and Alexandra’s bios and book with them here through Context Travel.
8. Do not pose on the furniture! The beds fit for kings and queens are not fit for you.
9. When you are pointing out details in a piece, stay far enough away that you do not make contact with the piece itself. I see this far too often. The oils from your fingers will cause damage.
10. The velvet ropes are there to keep you back. They are not your playground. This is not good museum etiquette.
11. Do not drink alcohol before or during your visit. Being drunk in a museum is embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone.
12. Kids. Make it fun for them. Many museums offer special activities for children- everything from scavenger hunts to wearing period costume pieces. Children that learn to appreciate art become adults that appreciate art. Nurture this in your children and be mindful. I have 3 kids that love going to museums. They will want to touch, it’s natural. Bring a small toy or something they can hold in their hands so they won’t be as tempted. Give them a pad of paper and a pencil and have them draw their favorite pieces.
Remember- When they are done, you are done. You have to visit a museum on their level, not yours.
13. Do not stand directly in front of the exhibit or the information plaque. If we all take a step back, we all can see.
14. Do not snack in the museum. Do I really need to say this? Your crumbs look horrible in front of that Michelangelo.
15. Don’t smoke. In the lines outside, or in the crowded piazza where everyone is admiring the art. It ruins the experience for everyone else.
16. Don’t push, shove, or run in the museum. Yes, people do this.
17. No one likes an an art snob. Well, except maybe another art snob. If you know something more than we do, share it. I love learning new things from other visitors around me. Just don’t walk around like you deserve to be there more than everyone else.
18. Enjoy yourself. If you find something is funny and you want to crack a joke, go for it. Just do it quietly to your friends and respect the people around you. We don’t need to hear what you have to say about the size of David’s penis or your opinion of Venus’ breasts.
19. On that note: do not molest the statues. Pretending like you are humping the naked statues or getting your photo taken grabbing their body parts is not cute.
20. Oh, one more thing. Don’t touch.
Do you have any that you would like to add? Have a museum story? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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* I was not paid or compensated in any way for links or recommendations.
Photo attributes- 1. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-73766-0052 / Hochneder, Christa; Krisch, Wern / CC-BY-SA 2. Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F033797-0003 / Storz / CC-BY-SA 3. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-E0108-0008-008 / CC-BY-SA 4. Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F014916-0034 / Wegmann, Ludwig / CC-BY-SA