Museum Fatigue

You look at the display panels and the glass cases. You can see the words, but your brain cannot take it all in. You see the pictures, and somehow you no longer feel so interested. Nothing jumps out at you. You’re irritated by the kids running around. The glass of coke and slice of cake are giving you a sugar rush. You’ve been there a couple of hours, and you’re thinking its time to call it a day. But the person with you insists on reading EVER word – argh! You can’t even be bothered to look through the shop on the way out.

Congratulations, you’ve got Museum Fatigue!

There is no shame in suffering from this totally random, unforgiving, but entirely curable ailment. It happens to the best of us. I love Museums – hell, I’ve worked in them since I was 16 – but sometimes its all too much. Think about it – why do lectures at University last for an hour? Because thats all the human brain can take in terms of learning at any one time. Even if you can keep looking at 17th Century Dutch Art after that, your brain won’t be taking it in quite as well. I’m sure that the human brain learns better in smaller, focussed sessions. And you enjoy visiting Museums more like this too – if you get bored or irritable, then you wont enjoy yourself.

So all day at a Museum or any kind of similar venue really is pushing it. It helps if somewhere has fresh air, a decent cafe, lots of different displays, audio-visuals, maybe even some physical activities. But I do know that maybe Museums need to look beyond having row upon row of medals, or paintings, or fine china saucers – sometimes I think less is more, and reduces the overload on the human brain. Most people visit Museums in their spare time, after all, and people want to enjoy their spare time. And whats enjoyable about going home with a headache?



Filed under Museums

2 responses to “Museum Fatigue

  1. Conversely i find it problematic these days when museums try to make themselves too ‘accessable’ and ‘relvant’ to the modern youth or family audience and do away with all the “dry” knowledge and information.

    For the aging duffer like me who goes to museums for the info, often you are now present with flash graphics which “entertain” but dont educate, or overstlyized lightweight nonsense….

  2. James Daly

    Agreed. It is a fine line and often Museums go too far the other way to try and be ‘relevant’ or ‘trendy’. Technology and innovation itself are not enough, its what is done with it that matters. To use a military analogy, it should be a force multiplier.

    It is an issue I know to a lot of museums dealing with difficult subjects such as military history. They are often maligned for the fact that children have little or no interest or knowledge in history. It is a difficult subject to impart to young people at the best of times. I think the answer is that Museums need to reflect their key audiences and their aims as well as their subject matter.

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