Thursday, December 15, 2005

How to make your museum the best museum

1. Allow non-flash photography.

Winner: Metropolitan Museum in NY, who does.

Second place: Apsley House

who does not but who only employs 3 guards for the entire museum (two of whom were deeply in conversation with each other), effectively fulfilling this rule.

Last place: Queen's Gallery, where the boyish guard in the last room caught me taking a photo of the ceiling, and said dourly to me, "Madam, photography is not permitted, so I shall have to ask you to delete the picture you took." I obeyed, then quickly turned the camera away to avoid him seeing the 37 pictures I already took without him or the other guards noticing.

2. Provide comfortable seats in every room.

Winner: Apsley House

for the soft seats that match the decor of each room.

Loser: Tate Modern

3. Beep at the end of each recording on the audio guide to indicate the ending.

Winner: Imperial War Museum. Crisp BEEP.

Second place: Apsley house. A three-toned quiet bip-bip-bip.

Loser: EVERY OTHER MUSEUM. I should be looking at your exhibits, not at the audio player to see if the track is finished!

4. Display the art in rooms that have beautiful colored walls and high ceilings.

Winner: Metropolitan:

Second place: Queen Gallery:

Loser: Tate Modern.

5. Make the audio guide fascinating. Add humor, stories, dialogue with accents.

Winner: Churchill Museum, for doing such an amazing job on this rule that it wins my heart as my favorite museum in London, despite having failed on every other rule.

Loser: Tate Modern. No background music. Commentary: "This piece shows the artist having dissected his ideas on human existence and presented it for us in quite an intriguing manner" and on in this manner for 2 minutes. You could hardly know that they're describing Picasso's painting of his mistress, nude, with her back melding into mountains and her rear into wind!

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