Here’s the Thing About Museums

by Mike Dang and Logan Sachon

Logan: Mike, how much did you pay when we went to the museum last week?

Mike: Oh right, so last week we were trying to do that thing where we left the office before 5 p.m. to do something fun because it’s summer, and it was Friday, and also we still have our relative youth. And you suggested that we should go to the American Museum of Natural History. I went on the museum’s site before we left, and it said $19 was the suggested donation. And I was prepared to pay $19.

But as I was going in, a nice lady came came up to me and said, here’s a free ticket! So I ended up not paying anything.

Logan: Yes, well, suggested donations are TRICKY. I used to always pay the actually amount out of one, fear of being judged, and two, the misconception that because I had a credit card, I technically COULD afford to pay full price, and so I should. But I got over that and was like, well, I’m not going to pay anything, take THAT.

But then I got up there and the lady was like, “The suggested donation is $19,” and I just lost all resolve and said in the meekest voice, “Can I just pay $5?” And handed over my debit card. Dumb. I mean it was fine. But it was also dumb.
But: Can we talk about museums as a thing? I had a very specific idea in my mind of what going to this museum would be like. And that expectation was not met.

Mike: Well, we also went right before it was closing, so I felt a little rushed to see things. And also, the crowds made me almost want to never come back.

Logan: I really thought it would be … empty. And very beautiful. And just a lovely place to spend an afternoon, and really it was a construction zone full of five million children.

Mike: Yes! The children, oh god, the children.

Logan: And you love children! And yet: THE CHILDREN.

Mike: Yes! Children are lovely when there are just a few of them around, or if they’re your own blood, but other people’s children, oh man. I was that person who kept asking, “Where are your parents!?” whenever a kid ran into me, and then I realized I had to just leave the room to stay sane.

Logan:And also, aside from all the LITTLE ONES, it was just not an aesthetically pleasing place. At all! Which is a bummer because the outside is so lovely. So, my hot tip is that if you want to see the museum in a “I want to say I’ve seen the museum” kind of way, go to the entrance on Central Park West and pop into the lobby and see the dinosaurs and admire the great cavernous room and then … leave. And walk around the grounds! It’s free, and you don’t even have to be embarrassed about telling a person you don’t want to pay, and also your only experience of the museum will be a good one.

Mike: Honestly, I think we went to the wrong museum. They made this one mostly for children, which, great, I’m happy for the little ones, but that also meant they put a gift shop around every corner so that they’d beg their parents to buy them something. Which: Smart! And: Evil.

I feel like it would have been much more quiet, and what you’re picturing in your head at The Guggenheim

Logan: I had mentally blocked out the gift shops. But there were SO MANY GIFT SHOPS. They were really everywhere.

(I’ve been trying not to say “literally” since I read that thing that was all “don’t say literally,” but sometimes you have to say “literally”! THERE WERE LITERALLY GIFT SHOPS EVERYWHERE.)

Mike: I think we saw more gift shops than actual exhibits. We also talked about what we’d do if we brought a kid along with us. And if I had a kid, I would tell him or her that, “Yes, darling, you can choose one thing from the gift shop within a reasonable price range, but just the one thing, so you need to think carefully about what you want to get and be sure about your decision.”

And then if my kid didn’t act like a monster like some of these other kids, we would walk down the street to get frozen custard afterward.

Logan: I just mostly thought it was sad. Museums are for LEARNING or whatever, walking around being sophisticated, talking about science, thinking about the planet, and the BLATANT COMMERCIALISM really took away from that. Also I wanted to buy all the dinosaur toys.

Mike: Okay, so I just found this poll on Gothamist that asked how much people pay when they go to the Met, and most people pay $0 to $5, apparently.

Logan: I am most people! (You are not most people.)

Mike: Yes, I would have paid the suggested price, because I can afford to, and well, museums need money to exist. Maybe because we went around closing time, and because of the madness and all the gift shops we saw, but I think I would have been disappointed to pay that money and then have not-so-great a time.

The goal for next time, if there is a next time, is to figure out the most low-traffic time to go. Actually, I think the thing to do if you’re into museums is probably pay for a membership somewhere. Because then you get invited to go to after-closing hour events where there is alcohol.

Logan: Or maybe the thing to do is befriend people who are members. And then be their +1 to these after-hours events (AHEM). So what I’m saying is I think you should join, definitely.

Mike: Yeah, the only reason I know that those are actually fun is because a friend once invited me to one of those evening events at MoMA, and you basically got to walk around with a glass of wine, and everyone was civil, and there was a live quartet. I was into that.

Logan: “Mike Dang only likes going to museums after hours with rich people.”

Mike: Hahah. Oh no, I am the one percent!


Mike: Next time, let’s go to the Guggenheim. I don’t think it’s a suggested donation. You have to buy a ticket ($22), which means the crowd is less intense. And I believe there’s only one gift shop.

Logan: Okay. I will do it for research! I will do it for art!

Previously: Who Actually Wants to Go on A Staycation?

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