Do This, Don't Touch That: Museum Etiquette for Beginners

Categories: Museums

Flickr photo by .imelda
Terra cotta soldier at the HMNS
I was having lunch a few weeks ago with a friend who works in the art industry when the topic of museum etiquette came up. I had just gone to see two separate exhibits in town and was marveling at how the atmosphere differed so widely at each gallery. In a town like Houston, which regularly gets large exhibits -- such as the Houston Museum of Natural Science's Terra Cotta Warriors or the Museum of Fine Arts' recent Turrell exhibit -- people who aren't regular museum or gallery-goers are sometimes drawn to these big-name events. Some of these people might even go years between museum visits.

So I put the question to social media: "What are some important tips for museum/gallery etiquette? Do you have any pet peeves with people in galleries?" And I got a huge response, from all sides of the coin, including curators for large museums, gallery owners and casual art lovers alike.

This Saturday is the fourth installment of the Houston Museum Experience. This is the Houston Museum District's reworking of the insanely popular Museum District Day, which also used to occur in September every year. On that day, all 19 of the district's museums were open and free to the public, and the crush it created with thousands of people trying to squeeze in as many museum visits as possible wasn't pleasant for anyone. So at the beginning for 2013, the district decided to divide those museums into four walkable zones, focusing on one zone a quarter.

Zone 4, which is being highlighted all day Saturday, includes some of Houston's busiest destinations -- HMNS (one of the most-visited museums in the country) as well as the Houston Zoo, the Children's Museum of Houston and Rice Gallery. And it's also Families Weekend on the Rice campus. That could mean a lot of people.

If you are new to museums or just don't go that often, check out our guidelines on museum etiquette.

Location Info


Houston Museum of Natural Science

5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX

Category: General

Houston Zoo

6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX

Category: General

Children's Museum of Houston

1500 Binz, Houston, TX

Category: General

Rice Gallery

6100 Main St., Houston, TX

Category: General

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My Voice Nation Help

Great advice.  If you go on a free day or if the institution you are visiting is always free, please consider dropping a few bucks in the donation box.  If the institution is a nonprofit, that doesn't mean they don't have to run the place like a business. 

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