Yeah, we need to have a talk.
It was Christmas Time. Dad was in town, and that meant taking him to a couple of spots in and around L.A.. One of the places we went to was the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). We spent enough time there, seeing enough Art to last us a couple of months.
But we also saw a lot of something else.
We saw a lot of terrible, no-good, badly-behaved, oh-my-God-were-you-raised-in-a-barn Museum Visitors.
No, these were not all tourists. This is a problem that stretches across the Angeleno/Non-Angeleno divide. The truth of it is plain and clear: Some of you just don’t know how to behave in a Museum.
So, I’m going to remind you.
Are we sitting comfortably? (Not that really care, but…)
1) Don’t touch nothing.
The cardinal rule, the golden rule, gneral Order Number One whenever you step into those hallowed halls.
And yet, here we are talking about it.
One would think that after all these years, one would not have to re-emphasize the number one rule of all Museums everywhere, but here we are.
Dad and I were actually on a tour inside the heart of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and there was a fascinating, decorative table in the middle of the room. I myself just assumed it was a piece of art, and stayed away from it. But the other Tour Members actually started leaning on the damn thing. One even put their bag down on it. The Guards quickly came and straighten them out, but still…
Look, the whatever’s on display, be it wonderful or crap, is precious. There’s only one or near only one of these things in the world, and they’ll last a lot longer if you keep your sticky paws off them.
This kinda ties into another rule that I had scheduled for later, but needs to be reinforced now.
2) If you doubt if it’s a piece of art… Assume it is.
Look, I know some of this stuff looks weird. Some of this stuff actually looks like it’s worth…well, nothing. I was actually inside the Craft and Folk Art Museum, where they had display of Paper-mache statues that were held together by a substance that was made of dung.
You read that right, dung.
Smelled somethin’ awful. I wanted to get out of there so bad, but my girlfriend at the time was fascinated.
I hated every single piece on display that day, but you know what? As much as I hated those pieces, I knew they were precious to somebody. And as long as they’re precious to even just one person, let’s all agree to keep ‘em that way.
3) Mind your backpacks.
One of the strangest requests I have ever received was going into the Virginia Scott Gallery at the Huntington Library and Gardens, and being asked to carry my backpack across my front.
Yup, no lie. Either put the backpack on your front or have it dangling in your hand. Don’t put it on your back.
Seemed counterproductive at the time, it being a Backpack and all…but I did it.
Now, after watching a lot of y’all at LACMA, I understand why. The chance of someone with a backpack accidentally backing into a piece on display is pretty damn high. I can’t tell you how many times I saw tourists gawking at all the wonderful pieces, lining up a shot on their camera phones, backing, backing, backing their way nearly into something else on display.
…and speaking of Camera phones…
4) Mind your phone.
This is one that even I’ve been caught doing. Forgetting to turn off my ringer as I go into the Museum. Not only have I’ve been caught doing it, but this paragraph is fueled by personal embarrassment.
Granted, a Museum is not a Hospital. There will be no sign mandating you turn off your Cell Phone. But a little quiet is all that’s expected; a little quiet and a little courtesy. After all no one wants to be looking at a Monet, or reading an in-depth description of what happened liberating one of the Concentration Camps in Europe, only to have someone’s cells go off to the Tune of Bruno Mars’ Locked out of Heaven.
No, that didn’t happen to me, but you get the point!
Even us Museum goers who’d prefer total silence understand that you can’t really turn off your Cell Phone in a Museum. If you’re with a large party, you might need it to communicate if they’re across campus. You might need it for an off-campus emergency. You might need it as your primary still camera (we’ll get to that in a minute). Heck, even I’ve been caught searching for additional info on Wikipedia while strolling. It all comes in handy.
Which is why someone thought up a silent/vibrate mode.
Even the low thud of a vibrating phone disturbs the spell a Museum can cast, but it’s better than it outright ringing.
So make you a deal, you can keep your phone on and use it (for the most part), but keep it on Vibrant, and I promise not to mind.
That being said…
5) You have to don’t take pictures of every damn thing.
Oh vey. Let me say that as a semi-professional photographer, your iPhone Camera is crap.
Your Samsung Phone camera too. They’re all crap.
They’re phones for pity’s sake. Designed for the placing and receiving of calls. The Camera is a nifty feature.
Yes, the iPhone 5s Camera have gotten better, the sensor on the iPhone 5S is quite good and you can take an indoor picture that’ll hold up decently well under scrutiny.
But, you’re in a Museum. You are allowed to take pictures of certain items, minding the Museum rules, but almost never are you allowed to use a flash.
Because having a flash go off out of nowhere kinda spoils the mood.
Also, there is the possibility that repeated flash pulses can wear out a piece of art faster than any damn thing, but…we’ll get to that in the next rule.
6) Mind the rules about photography.
Believe it or not, the Artworks on display belong to someone…and that someone whoever they are holds what is known as “the copyright” on said Artwork…just like someone holds the copyright to your favorite movie, or book. You wouldn’t go downloading your favorite movie without permission.
What am I saying, of course some of you would.
And if you take a picture of that copyrighted work, we’ll you just violated copyright, and…that makes a mess, so on and so forth.
Don’t look at me. I’m not going to violate Copyright.
Look, if you go floating around those pictures for anything but private use (i.e. selling your own Postcards and T-Shirts, not…should we say, running your own food blog), they will come after you.
Plus, keep in mind one of the ways Museums stay in business and keep their costs down is selling T-Shirts, Postcards and other assorted swag. If you go out and make your own postcards (and let’s be honest, with some of the Digital SLRs that are floating around out there, some of y’all are more than capable of making your own postcards now, as well as other assorted tchotchkes.)
Finally, there is your flash. Remember some of these Artworks are several hundred years old. I’m not sure how well they’ll stand up against the repeated pulses of light from your average commercial flash. I’m not sure they won’t hold up just fine. Still, let’s let the archivists of the world determine whether or not the works can withstand a number of flash pulses.
7) Don’t run.
Really? Do I have to remind you of this? What are you, five?
Given what I saw at LACMA that day, apparently some of you are.
8) You’re not a tour guide. Keep your voice down.
Like I said, a Museum can cast a spell. It’s generally a serene, still location, allowing the visitors to gaze, to marvel and to absorb what’s being presented. It’s not a totally silent place, but we’re not talking loud rollicking conversations about Real Estate in the local area, or the size of Kim Khardasians latest wedding.
What I’m saying is that assume your indoor voice is too damn loud.
Look, we can all handle conservation about the topic at hand. If things are getting loud as you talk about the art, then that is the least bad thing you can do. Things are getting a little too heated as you talk about the Monet in the Impressionist’s Gallery? No prob. But accepting a Phone call from your Kid’s orthodontist? Are you kidding me? Talking over your dinner plans for that evening? We don’t care.
Keep it down, unless it’s about the art. And even then…
9) Mind the other museum visitors. Try not to get in their way.
This is one of the more interesting…dilemmas I see happen during a visit. People are really convinced that they are somehow the only damn people in the gallery.
Look, everyone’s paid their admission. If they’re members, then they’ve REALLY paid their admission. Everybody gets to see the art. Don’t bogart it. Mind your other patrons, and be nice.
10) Mind the guards. They’re actually here to make your visit a pleasant one.
This is tough because I know that any Museum Guard anywhere can seem gruff and unfriendly. Barking out orders in an instant that seem obviously to them and not obvious to you.
But remember, they are here to protect the Assets (aka, the Art) and your good time. They know what needs to be done-slash-handled in any particular Gallery, and want to make sure that the Art is preserved for the next time you visit.
Yes, they can seem gruff and unfriendly, but that’s only because they’ve given the same instruction like nine or ten hundred times today, and even they’re getting sick of their act.
So be aware. They’re only doing it for your own good.
11) Mind your kids. If they can’t handle it, get them out of there.
This will kinda tie into the whole “mind your indoor voice” ting, but since we’re specifically talking about kids…
Look, I know you love your kids, and you want them to have a good time and be themselves, but maybe it’s time to remember it’s not all about you or them at this particular moment. This is Museum you’re in and there are a lot of people trying to enjoy themselves. They don’t need to have their time ruined because you can’t keep your ankle-biter from running around wild, or your newborn infant from screaming its head off. (Why you’d bring an infant to a museum when the odds of them remembering anything is close to nil, escapes me, but still…
Just bear in mind that you are responsible for your kids, and thus responsible if they act up and start ruining everyone else’s good time. I know Parents don’t think they’ve raised bad kids, but I guarantee that’s what everyone in the Gallery is thinking about you as your kid loses it because he or she is tired or bored.
Granted, Museum goers are a little more tolerant in say a Natural History Museum or an Air and Space Museum where there are lots of animatronics and stuff going off, and noise being made by the exhibit itself. Still, it’s a good moment to teach your kids to share and be courteous to others. We adults don’t mind Kids scrambling to the head of the line to be the one to “push the button” on some display, but we would like it if Parents wrapped things up before they just stand there and push the button again and again and again.
Art and History Museums are different. They are usually serene affairs, and the other Museum goers want you to keep the ruckus to a minimum. Actually, well below a minimum.
I’m betting the other patrons can handle the occasional momentary outburst. It happens. We get it. Plus, most adults will hail you if you step in and get ahold of your child. But handling it, might mean you having to take your child outside and miss out on something you want to see…
You know what? Too damn bad, you had the kid. It’s rude and it’s wrong, but you gotta take responsibility. Being in a Museum space means you occasionally sacrifice like that.
Good news is there are facilities at a lot of major Museums that are designed exclusively with Kids in mind. The Boone Art Gallery is one such place in LACMA, and should be used by every parent visiting the Museum. Getty also has some areas devoted to families and kids, and best of all you the Sciencey/History Museums are out to hook the kids early, so you know they’e on your side.
Look, these few rules are just a start. As I see new outrages, I’ll be sure to cook up “guidelines”. But for now…mind your neighbor, be nice, and be considerate.