Ever been whistled at while admiring a piece of art and immediately felt embarrassed for getting too close? A whistle or a snapping of fingers could be your wake up call that your museum manners are not as great as you thought they were. It’s easy to get carried away when touring cultural centers, but there’s a reason why there are guards stationed everywhere in museums—and why rules need to be followed.
As a museumgoer, there are straightforward rules on how to behave as well as unsaid common courtesies. These unwritten policies, which I once thought to be obvious, are more and more apparent to me with each visit—especially as other patrons break rules with outright awful etiquette. Museums can sometimes come off as rather pretentious institutions, but most of them are dedicated to the public. They have spent centuries preserving and perfecting history so that the public can access knowledge through exhibitions. And the history of the museum itself is pretty fascinating—the future of the cultural spaces is always evolving.
Curators, museum educators, and volunteers spend countless hours coaxing the public to come inside its doors. Don’t get discouraged by these rules—just know that the museum space is not a shopping mall or playground.
Although I personally prefer art museums, all museums have set rules so visitors can have the best experience possible—and so that they can continue to preserve the works for future generations. The people behind museums deeply care for the spaces, so proceed with caution the next time you stroll through an exhibition. Read on for our list of universal museum mistakes, so you can make sure you don’t commit them.
Mariah Tyler is a digital photo editor at Travel+Leisure. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @mphbox.