How to [Not] Visit a Museum

The amusing thing about having four children is that you can look back at when you had two and tell yourself it was easy.  It wasn’t, of course, but you can tell yourself it was.  I remember when I heard great things about the Pompeii exhibit at the National Gallery of Art and I was determined to see it.  Most of the day was spent taking my two babies, 13 months apart, there and back.  We took the metro and I don’t remember what happened there . . . it’s probably best that way.  I do remember that we practically ran through the exhibit.  I remember trying to look at the last painting and knowing that I shouldn’t as whines were beginning to erupt.  Here’s a picture of the kids on our way back to the car that day:


My mother took us to museums when we were little.  She always told other people, “When you take children to the museum be quick.  You want them to have good memories so that they will come back.  Count bugs in still lives, look for animals . . .”  I can hear her advice, sound advice.  I just remember being completely bored waiting for her at the end of an exhibit wondering what on earth she was looking at and if she would ever be finished.  Something in her method worked however since I’m now dragging my own children to museums.

Last week we went on a spur of the moment trip to Baltimore.  I thought, why not try and visit the Walter’s Art Museum?  It’s even kid friendly with a children’s area in the basement!  We had done an entire day at Port Discovery children’s museum the day before so what could go wrong?  Oh yeah, we had done an entire day at Port Discovery children’s museum the day before.  They were finished.

We parked and entered the Walter’s Art Museum only to descend immediately to the depths.  There had been an eruption of screams at the sight of a mummy picture.  The basement held many wonders.  There was a movie theater, a shelf of puzzles, a wooden castle, a table where we had a snack, and even a discovery area with canopic jars and insect specimens in plastic to touch.  It was very nice, but it was not what I had come to see.

I tried once more to take us upstairs.  No sooner had we exited into statuary hall than the three-year-old began screaming once again.  Greek statues?  Mummies?  Who knows why?  It was clear to me that we needed to leave.  Suddenly the older ones began crying because they wanted to see mummies.  Just saying the word “mummy” made my younger daughter cry all the more.  We left the building immediately and crossed the street.  Even the large man who ran the parking lot with an air of short-tempered superiority was silenced in the our wake of screams.  He took our money and gave me the car key choosing to yell at someone else instead.  When we climbed into our car I wanted to cry, only I didn’t get the chance.  Everyone in the back of the minivan needed hugs.  We left the Walters and we left Baltimore.  We’ll be back.  Maybe not for a few years but we’ll be back.

Now my eldest kids are practically begging me to take them back.  Now I know another strategy to add to my mother’s list of ways to make a museum interesting.  Take your kids and then leave suddenly and dramatically so that they are left wondering what was in there after all?


  1. Poor little 3 year old! She’s the delicate flower of the bunch! 🙂 You are so brave to try all these cool things with all of them!

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