Museums and large art galleries are treasure houses of historic collections and famous art from many periods in history. Often there is less than a quarter of the collection on display at any time due to space.
In the film, European Vacation, the family exhausts themselves by trying to see every major art piece and famous painting in as many galleries and museums as they can cram in during a two week visit to several cities in Europe.
While their antics were hilarious, cultural overload and tiredness was the result of their futility in trying to see and do it all. This can sometimes be the unfortunate reality of such once-in-a-lifetime visits. Accept that in a limited time it is just not possible to see and do everything. But with a little planning, maximum enjoyment can be gained and over-tiredness avoided.
The best pieces in any collection are usually always on display due to popularity. However, to avoid disappointment, it is wise to check before a visit that a specific work of art is available, as it may be on loan to another museum for a traveling exhibition, or taken away for repair work. Some museums will have free entry at certain times but most will have either a ticket entry or bigger cities will offer museum passes to several.
Use the internet to search for the major cultural attractions for your chosen destination. Museums and galleries are often some of the best marketed and advertised attractions; check local papers, TV, radio and billboards. Tourist centers and libraries will carry leaflets and brochures for all there is to see and do. Hotels and guesthouses will also carry a selection and asking locals can also provide good insider tips on the best value, what is worth the trip and what to avoid.
Gallery Guides and Information Booths
On arriving at the museum or gallery, the first place to stop should be the information booth. They will have floor plans, exhibitions guides, information on when the next guided tour will take place and some even offer highlights tours.
Often there will be audio guide CD players in several languages, available for a small rental fee, which will play information about key pieces in the collection. These can provide good background information about a piece.
However, the most important thing to do is look. Look at the item and try to understand it. Who made it and why? What is it for? Is it confusing or upsetting? Why is the piece in the collection? Is it a good or bad example?
Sometimes it is enough to just walk around and enjoy the beauty of the pieces. Other items can totally baffle and may require further information or provoke further investigation. If a guide is around, ask questions. The guides are often volunteers and will know the collection very well. They enjoy talking about the collection and can often provide insightful information and added depth and understanding.
While a visit to a museum is educational, it should also be enjoyable. It can be fun to guess what an item is before reading the information plaques provided. Often the information center will provide activity packs for children or suggested routes around the collection if time is short.
Remember to take frequent breaks and rest stops. Often there will be restaurants and cafes in the building or eating areas provided if you prefer to bring your own refreshments.
Museum Themes, Interactive Exhibits
Many museums will have a specific theme such as war or industry periods showing farming equipment, aircraft, pioneer museums or science museums. These can be much more interactive, with hands-on activities, videos and lectures. They can often spark new interests or begin a family history search.
Many individuals and teams of specialists have researched, catalogued and preserved the collections. More recently, much effort has gone into presenting the collections using multimedia to enhance the enjoyment, and help visitors see, learn and understand about history, cultures and the world.