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The 6 Types of Museum Visitor

Updated on March 30, 2013
Shhh! I don't care what type of visitor you are, use your indoor voice!
Shhh! I don't care what type of visitor you are, use your indoor voice! | Source

Marching through the endless rooms at the Natural History Museum in London, I began thinking of the different types of people that visit museums and the different ways in which they visit them.

In total, I have identified 6 museum-specimens worthy of detailing below, but if you are or know of a different breed, then please comment in the section at the bottom. You might find your addition will be integrated amongst all others!

Important: not all lazy enthusiasts are cats.
Important: not all lazy enthusiasts are cats. | Source

1. The Lazy Enthusiast

He's the guy that knows and cares a lot about the subject that the museum is dealing with. However, there's just one small twist: all he seems to do is brush past every single thing in the museum, reading only a few words on each plaque and bypassing other items altogether.

Because maybe he's too tired, he's had a bad day and going to his favourite clown museum cheers him up. Or he's too smart, he's already defined and taught a million creationists what evolution is, he doesn't need a silly plaque explaining it to him in a way fit for mere children. Plaques? Pah. He's the evolution king! Alternatively, he's also very picky about how his information is presented - maybe he likes power point presentations instead of a holographic David Attenborough doing the talking.

You never know with these enthusiasts, but what you do know is that they're complicated fellows.

Gather 'round kids, It's story time!
Gather 'round kids, It's story time! | Source

2. The Story Teller

  • Oh wow that really reminds me of the 'x' I saw at 'y',
  • Do you remember that enormous 'x' I saw there!?
  • You're just as putrid as that 'X' we saw last year...

Yes, the story teller wades through the museum rooms with one single purpose in mind: create memories. Looking for the most memorable items means being able to talk about them later.

Who needs any of that 'factual stuff' when all you're going to talk about with your friends is the giant polar bear you saw, the escalator passing through a model planet, or a siamese dog playing checkers.

Who remembers 90% of the things they see in a museum anyway? No matter how long you spend in a museum the fact remains that you'll remember the awesome things like the earthquake simulator and not the detailed collection of sea shells they had at the back...

Rememberandt Me?

At age 7 however, children develop the human emotion of 'empathy' and so can't resist Remberandt's desperate puppy dog eyes.
At age 7 however, children develop the human emotion of 'empathy' and so can't resist Remberandt's desperate puppy dog eyes. | Source

3. The Wrong Place Visitor

  • 'What the hell is that!'
  • 'What even is a thermo-girator?'
  • 'Why did I even come here!?'

Ahh yes, these are the words of the out of place visitor. Not understanding anything because you mistakingly thought you knew way more about taxonomy than you really did something we'll all do at least once in our lives.

What can you do when you've already paid a hefty £23 to get into a museum about cheese? Buckling down and pretending to give a @$#& (keen interest) seems to be the most common solution and this is exactly why you'll find people you would never have thought you would appear in a museum. That, and the fact that stereotypes are very unreliable, you prejudiced ragamuffin.

The Wrong Place-Wrong Time Visitor
This is an unfortunate variation of wrong place visitor that comes too early or late for an exhibition and so is stuck looking over the same artifacts he'd seen at the museum the last 300 times he visited.

Dragged-Along Visitor
No child really wants to be at a Remberandt gallery at age 6 and no man really wants to be at a feminine hygiene exhibition, but yet due to unfortunate circumstances they find themselves there. There's no seating at museums for those that don't want to be there, the only alternative is to suffer.

So next time you see someone who clearly doesn't want to be in a museum, in a museum, make sure to give them that awkward yet empathising 'shmidt happens' smile.

4. The Every-Detailer

The 'every-detailer' is the guy or gal that holds the queue up, blocks that key doorway in order to look at the fire exit instructions, and above all else never, ever, misses anything out on his trip.

Knowing that he got the most of his time (or money) is the top of the priority list for this visitor, even if it means reading about the precise 57 processes in which a soldering iron is manufactured whilst holding up a crowd of likeminded eager visitors.

The British Museum, just a fancy toilet for some.
The British Museum, just a fancy toilet for some. | Source

5. The Pretender

Oh, that man seems very interested in that particular piece of artwork. Or does he?! No, he's just waiting for his girlfriend to finish powdering her nose in the bathroom - after all, toilets are free of charge and so is the museum!

Pretend visitors will make a convincing attempt to integrate with the rest of the visitors but will flee as soon as they have achieved what they wanted.

This could be something as simple as resting in a warm and dry café/exhibition hall to finding a water fountain to quench their frugal throats.

Are you a model visitor?

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6. The Model Visitor

This rare specimen does the following:

  1. Spends an appreciative amount of time at each item
  2. Pays attention to the other visitor's needs and does not stand so close as to block anyone's view
  3. Fills out those annoying feedback forms so the museum can listen to its customers and improve
  4. Lectures the other 5 types of visitor on good behaviour
  5. Gives a small donation to those museums that provide free entrance


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    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Hi Philanthropy - I love visiting museums of any kind, but I am afraid I am a lazy enthusiast until I come to something I like. Then I park myself in front of the piece and study it for a while. I don't like museum tours/guides/audio tours because they remind me of the story teller visitor which drives me bonkers. Fun and interesting hub!