To some, a trip to a museum is an invitation to take a nap. How can a recreated bedroom from the 19th century possibly be interesting? Native American artifacts? Seen them. An actual Union Army uniform from the Civil War? Ho-hum.
Well, that's some people. Not us.
As we travel the country, one of the perks is to visit museums in different regions, often displaying items from the history of that specific area. My wife, Nadyne, is especially interested in historical museums and I very much enjoy art and natural history. In either case, we feel a special connection to nature and the past that we would not have enjoyed otherwise. There is a peculiar feeling one can experience if they see or touch an item centuries old. One can imagine the people who may have made it, used it, painted it, wore it, lived in it or wrote about it, and realize they were not much different from us today. Enter a building marked, "Washington slept here," and one can feel the goose bumps thinking about occupying the same space now that the Father of our Country did in the 1700's. When I see a fossil or meteorite, I am in awe of the pure age of it.
So, yes, museums make us happy. I don't think we'll ever get bored visiting them.
I received many exceptional replies to my inquiry to people about what makes them happy about museums. Here are a few of those comments (and I've edited or paraphrased some):
Jeanne W.- I love looking back at history in museums, but some of them are starting to make me feel like I should be in there, too. It brings back childhood memories to see books, toys, dishes, etc. from when I was a kid.
Cate H.- Quiet. A moment to step out of myself and soak up beauty, history, ingenuity, and stoke my own creative fires.
Cathy R.- I like to imagine what it must've been like to be the subject of a portrait or to have lived in the original home of the artwork, to have been present when it was created and to understand why. It love to connect with the emotion of a piece. Diaries and letters are my favorite museum pieces, along with any other personal items of historical significance. Their stories fascinate me.
Nadyne H.- I love history museums... any history about anywhere! War museums, or old forts, remind me of all those that have sacrificed their lives for this country. Leaves me in awe...
Peggy H.- I love museums! Nowhere else can you find collections of the world's most interesting and beautiful treasures. I always wish I had a couple of days to explore and appreciate all of the exhibits properly. I also wish there were more seats so my feet didn't hurt so bad the next day... I'd hate to rent an electric cart, since I don't really need one, but I'd get through more of the museum that way.
Habadabeer- For me, a museum dedicated to exploration, adventure, heroism, or progress is a sure draw. The same holds true for anything hands-on. I can take or leave most art museums and the like; just not for me. I could, however, spend days at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, the Air and Space or Smithsonian Museums at the National Mall, or something like the Corning Museum of Glass, or the Strong Museum of Play. I’m certain I would love to visit Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. One of our more recent experiences was a visit to the Steamtown National Historic Site in Pennsylvania. And that may be the crux for me: a museum must offer me more than exhibits to view, it must leave me with the feeling of having experienced something.
TheClearyClan- We have had the grandkids to Steamtown three times now, they love it. I love it to.
Kevin/Yvonne & 4 Doxies- Bemused would be a better term about the last few museums I visited. They were the small community historical type museums in Alaska. The amount of tools and equipment I had either used or given away two years ago when we sold our sticks-and-bricks that were on display was amazing.
BLSMSS- Museums make me happiest when I see children there being fascinated about what they see. I'm happy about how the artifacts came to be there, how things were made with little technology, and such intricate work and colors. Museums make me happy when I find out part of my family had something to do with what was inside -- I recently found a Great Uncle was in Civil War. When I was a kid, my father would drag us to all the forts on the east coast, and it wasn’t interesting. But that has changed. We went to the Nimitz museum here in Texas and it took us three hours just outside. So fascinating to see how things were built and the people involved.
Tracie and Roy S.- Gives you an opportunity to imagine what life would be like
Habadabeer- One “museum” on my bucket list is the USS Olympia in Philadelphia. It was the flagship of Admiral Dewey after whom my Grandfather was named. While he was in the Navy, my grandfather was assigned to that ship, and shoveled coal across the Atlantic to Russia. My brother took my Dad (another Navy vet) to visit several years ago and were able to talk the custodians into letting him visit every boiler so he could say he saw the one his father had manned! I'm told one of the last missions of the Olympia and her crew was to transport the body of the Unknown Soldier back to the U.S. to be laid to rest.
I'll end with an oft-heard and paraphrased quote by writer and philosopher George Santayana, who once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Thanks, everyone, for your contributions! Another topic will be posted shortly.
Jack Huber is a writer, blogger, poet and photographer. Like many, he is concerned about the psyche of our planet's inhabitants and wants to try to improve his little corner of it.