At Homeschool Pool we often go to museums. Art, history and science museums are among our favorite. Whenever we go, though, we are always amazed that there is someone who acts inappropriately. At times this is a minor irritation and other times it is a significant disruption. All museums have guidelines and if everyone would abide by those, attending the museum will be more fun for all. This is why it is so important to discuss museum manners with children before attending. Doing so will not only ensure a pleasant experience for everyone but will give museum administrators a positive view of homeschool families.
Don’t touch anything. When viewing exhibits we tell the kids to put their hands behind their backs. Some museums have barricades, mostly subtle ropes or lines marked on the floor that you should not pass beyond. Respect these boundaries. Keep in mind some of the exhibits are priceless and the museums do what they must to preserve them for future generations to also enjoy. Certainly there are exceptions as some museums, or exhibits within a particular museum, have hands-on demonstrations. But when in doubt, do not touch.
When traveling from one exhibit to another or from room to another, walk. Keep your arms by your sides or behind your back and walk. Don’t run, skip, jump or swing your arms wildly. This is for the safety of other visitors and for the exhibits.
Photography policies within museums vary greatly. Some allow it, some don’t, some allow it with limits. Often art museums disallow photography or restrict flash photography. This is because flash photography can damage art pieces over time or it may be for copyright issues. Before taking your camera out, ask what the photography policy is and adhere to it.
Discussing the pieces in the museum is one of the most important parts of being there. But, you should speak in subdued tones so as not to disrupt conversation around you so others can also enjoy their conversations. Speaking quietly shows respect for the venue and for the other patrons.
Cell phones should be off. Ringing phones can be a distraction and it is rude to use them. You may also make security personnel nervous if they think you are using your cell phone to record or take pictures when it is not allowed.
Food is not allowed in museums. We’ve not yet seen an exception but there may be one. Eat before or after. Some museums even have picnic facilities or cafes where you can eat but don’t bring food or drinks into exhibit halls.
Don’t chew gum. Everyone says they will not spit their gum out purposefully or accidentally but if that was the case, why do museum volunteers find gum in inappropriate places? Just don’t chew gum for the time you are in the museum. It really isn’t a huge sacrifice, is it?
If you are going to a museum to see something specific, research it before visiting. Have kids read and learn about it. If possible, take some discussion questions with you so your children remain engaged and interested in the visit. Some museums even have materials available online to help with this. If you do not find out everything you want to about an exhibit, ask the docents who are well versed in the subject material.
Listen to docents
The docents and guides in the museum are there to answer your questions and to give you relevant information regarding the exhibits. Be polite and respectful to them at all times. Often they are unpaid volunteers. Feel free to ask questions but don’t try to talk over the experts who are using their expertise to educate you.
Some museums have restrictions as to the kinds of materials you may use inside the museum or in certain locations within the museum. If you are sketching, painting or making notes, ask first before using ink, marker or paint. Some venues may require pencil only. When in doubt, ask.
Listen to security
Even if you follow all the rules there may be some special circumstances that you were unprepared for or even rules that are added or changed for a particular exhibit. If security personnel ask you to do something, you need to do it. Be respectful about it.
Go over the rules with children before attending a museum exhibit. If you have an issue while there, remove the child temporarily and remind them of their expected behavior. For younger kids, you may want to check if the museum has outdoor facilities or hands-on activities you can go to when they start getting restless. Also, keep in mind that short visits concentrating on a particular subject will often hold attention better than long, all day visits that may test even the older, more focused students.
See also Homeschool Pool’s advice on a related subject, [click here for Theater Manners] and [click here for The Importance of Behaving at Public Functions for Homeschoolers].