Museum Madness


The New York Times reports on the crush of visitors to European museums. Outside of New York City and Chicago, I don’t think that American art museums are having this problem.



11 thoughts on “Museum Madness

  1. We have pretty crappy art considering how much the robber barons exploited people. They apparently spent the big money on dinosaurs. That’s an understandable preference from my point of view.

      1. We have Carnegie libraries with swimming pools in them. And one in a building attached to the building with the mediocre art and the very rare dinosaurs.

  2. At the original Barns Foundation location (In Lower Marion, just outside of Philadelphia) you had to make an appointment, often quite a bit in advance, to go to the museum. It was still pretty crowded. (It had one of the best collections of impressionist art in the world, not just in the US, among other things.) I do not think this is the case at the new building (inside the city, near the main art museum) but it is a much larger building.

    Special exhibits at the Philadelphia Art Museum also fairly regularly attract big crowds, even though they are regulated by timed tickets, for the most part, and so not as mad as general admission things.

  3. Also, I think it’s obvious that increased tourism from Asia, especially China, is playing a role in this. The tours, as I understand, are highly organized, and take large groups of people to designated areas all together. This might well make sense in context, but is unfortunate for places not really designed to deal with such things.

    1. Yeah. Last year or the year before 80 million Chinese people went abroad. This year I think it’s estimated about 100 million Chinese people will go abroad. If things keep going at this pace, pretty soon you’ll have half a billion Chinese people traveling out of the country. I don’t live in a wealthy cosmopolitan place, and all of my friends expect to have the opportunity to travel abroad in the next 5-10 years. Europe is #1 on the list. They all want to see Paris, Rome, Venice, Greece, and Switzerland. (If you’re curious, Nepal, India, and Thailand are also popular places for people to want to travel to.)

      In terms of traveling, people really only travel in groups because 1) it’s much cheaper, and 2) the travel agency is a giant safety net for people who have almost no knowledge of Western culture, English language, or ability to handle emergencies abroad. As Chinese people get wealthier and more “sophisticated,” they’ll probably start to do more solo international traveling, just as they’re starting to do more solo domestic traveling. I’d give it 15-20 years before “Europe on 5 dollars a day” appears in China.

    1. That is certainly plausible. Even when I went to the Louvre about 20 years ago, the crowd in front of the Mona Lisa was just silly- impossible to see it well, and not worth fighting, given the large number of other really great things to see.

  4. Interesting–because two weeks ago my husband and I were in Rio deJaneiro and their big, gorgeous art museum (modeled after the Louvre) had very few visitors on the Friday morning we were there (this was AFTER the World Cup, so you can’t blame it on that!) and I couldn’t fathom why it wasn’t packed!

  5. True story: I once came upon an Asian tourist who was photographing a for-sale copy of a painting at the National Gallery in DC. The National Gallery very sneakily transitions straight from exhibits to gift shop, so it was an easy mistake to make.

  6. You can find crowds like that around the Hope diamond and other exhibits in the Smithsonians. As Madeleine points out, that seems to be at the Mona Lisa, so of course the crowds are crazy. Other parts of the museum, not so much.

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