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For Those Who Can Spend Forever in Museums

For Those Who Can Spend Forever in Museums

Missing museums

There is an episode of This Is Us where Rebecca tells her sons about a time she visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art as a little girl. There, she saw a woman staring at a painting—Madame X by John Singer Sargent, to be exact—for hours. She wondered how a person could have the time and patience to stare at a painting for that long. Being a young girl, she was sure the woman saw something that she didn’t.

She was so intrigued by this woman that she remembered her for the rest of her life. Decades later, she came back to New York to stare at the painting for as long as she wanted, just like the woman did. Finally, she knew: all her life, she was running out of time. And it finally felt good to do something she wanted, something she always said she was going to do.

I, too, like to spend hours at the museum. Not just because I find it incredibly relaxing, but because it’s stimulating, too. I admire people who enjoy the same. Like Rebecca, my favorite museum is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, followed closely by the Museum of Art in Philadelphia. I am notorious for spending the entire day at a museum. I have easily spent seven hours there without realizing it and could have easily stayed longer if I was alone or if the museum was open later.

A lot of people I know don’t enjoy spending hours in museums. Most people in my life think it’s “boring” or “touristy.” Then there are people who enjoy museums, but can only tolerate it for an hour or two before they want to leave.

I, however, can park myself on a bench and sit in each room for an hour. I like to study the paintings, think about them, and read all the note cards on the wall. Sometimes I will open my phone and read up on the artist, what inspired them, and more.

This post is for those who can spend forever in museums.

The admirer and the artist

I am not an artist myself but I do admire artists. My boyfriend is an artist. He teaches Digital Art to teenagers at a prep school and he and his friends have also created their own comic book. They frequently rent tables at Comic Con and produce impressive work.

Some of his students create work that rivals professionals. I have seen my boyfriend work, too. His process can take minutes or hours, depending on what he’s working on. And I imagine the paintings in the museums have taken hours, if not days or weeks, too.

That’s why I can’t imagine how anyone can walk into a museum, look at a painting for a couple of seconds, and then move on. In that 12×16” frame, there’s just too much to see.

One day, I asked him if this bothers him.

“Most people just glance at your work, say it looks great, and then move on. The whole thing takes like 5 seconds of their time, but it took you days to make,” I told him. “Does that bother you?”

He paused for a moment to consider this. “I guess I’m used to it,” he said.

I’m a writer. If you are reading this now, you are taking the time to read it. If you make it to the end, that’s even better. This post may take me only 30 minutes to write, or it may go through hours of revisions. It might take me days of polishing before I’m comfortable with sharing it with the world.

I appreciate anyone who takes four minutes out of their day to read what I have written. You may not understand the intricate techniques I’m using in my writing. You may just think it’s either good or bad, entertaining or boring.

I don’t expect the average person to read a piece of writing and understand WHY it’s good. I also don’t expect the average person to look at a piece of art and understand why it’s good. I’ll admit that sometimes I don’t even know. But I always stand amazed at what is before me, hanging in a gallery.

Missing museums

One of my favorite artists is Claude Monet. He’s a lot of people’s favorite artists, and for good reason. I am constantly in awe of his paintings. When I see them in person, I get as close as I can before the guard tells me to step back, because the detail is that incredible. Then I stand back, far away, and watch the little tiny brush strokes blur into a picture.

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Earlier this year, my boyfriend returned from a class trip to the Met with free friends & family tickets and gave them to me. Excited, I tacked them to my fridge with a magnet, and said we should go together in the spring.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 struck soon after that. We have yet to go, and those tickets expire at the end of this month. They are still hanging on my fridge, eager to be used. I’m not sure when I will be able to go again.

I have been missing museums of all kinds for months, from the small, cultural museum at Lambert Castle in Paterson, New Jersey to the charming Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut.

I miss the fun and playful Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore and the quirky, otherworldly Museum of Modern Art in New York City. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to visit them again, but when I do, you can guarantee that I will spend the entire day there.

I will eat their overpriced food in their bright dining halls and sit on their benches without thinking about Lysol. I will quietly study the paintings and the people and I will take my time wandering the spacious rooms.

After months in quarantine, a reality like that seems too good to be true.


Do you like to spend hours at the museum? Which one is your favorite? I want to know, so I can make sure to check it out someday!

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  • Megan, this really hit home for me. I love the way you wrote this post because though I have a fondness and love for museums, I never really understood that it was the luxury of time that it gave me. When I read this (which you illustrated SO well – I am in awe of your writing), it kind of just clicked for me. It’s a privilege for me or anyone to walk around and aimlessly watch all the art hung on the walls, read note cards, google artists I learn of, and enjoy this serenity of the atmosphere around me.

    I grew up with a mother who is an artist and though my creative passion lies within writing, I remember watching her as a child, stroking lines on a canvas. We had a very chaotic household but she created space and this small window of time for her art, and in those moments, I just sat and watched how calm the world suddenly became. I think that’s why I have such an admiration for all art. It’s a window of time that we create to make something that perhaps no one will like, want, read, or appreciate. But we do it anyway because there is so much magic that lies within creating something out of nothing. It changes who we are.

    I loved reading this and I can’t believe I never really analyzed my love for museums in this way, but it really makes sense now. I also completely agree with you and I think many artists may feel the same way in that we should take the time to appreciate other’s work because we know what goes into it: time, energy, love, desire, etc.

    This makes me want to visit a museum immediately. I can’t wait until we’re all able to go again! x

    • I am so glad you were able to make this connection, Misha. I don’t think I realized it either until I watched that episode of ‘This Is Us’ (if you’re interested, you can watch the full scene on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpKb5b8Uvgk. It was a featured scene and it’s beautifully told. You don’t have to watch the show to understand what’s going on, it’s just a beautiful ode to museums, privilege, and time). After watching that scene, I knew I had to write about it. I’ve been sitting in my drafts ever since and I’m glad I finally published this.

      I think everyone needs to slow down a little more. Just in general. I love going to museums because it allows me to slow down. I can take all the time I want and just appreciate the art and the atmosphere. It’s also one of my favorite places to go on dates because you can learn a lot about a person based on what they think about art, which pieces they are drawn to, and how long they don’t mind staying there (haha).

      If you’re ever back in New York, after Covid-19 is all a memory, we should go together. 🙂

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