From iconic art masterpieces to rare cultural artifacts, museums offer a wealth of inspiration, knowledge, and wonder. But beyond seeing famous works and objects, there are many other reasons why visiting museums brings so much joy and satisfaction for so many people. This article explores 5 real motivations – both intellectual and emotional – that drive millions of visitors through museum doors every year.
Whether you’re an avid museumgoer, an occasional visitor, or have never set foot in one, understanding these deep motivations behind museum attendance may inspire you to step inside the next time you pass one by.
To Feed Their Curiosity
Museums satisfy one of our deepest innate human desires: curiosity. They expose us to a wealth of fascinating objects, information, and ideas that we would otherwise never encounter in our daily lives. From rare cultural artifacts to specimens of plants and animals, museum exhibits feed our innate desire to learn, explore and discover new things about the world and ourselves.
Walking through a museum stokes our sense of wonder as we encounter interesting artifacts from distant places and times. Interactive displays, written explanations, and staff interact to satisfy our curiosity by sharing insights, key facts, and background information that bring these objects to life.
For Intellectual Stimulation
Museums provide a wealth of intellectual stimulation by exposing visitors to fresh ideas, perspectives, and information. The written text, interactive displays and curatorial insights that accompany museum exhibits prompt us to think in novel ways that fight against mental stagnation. Ideas and facts we encounter in museums expand our worldviews and challenge our assumptions.
Walking through an exhibit absorbs our minds as we read informational plaques, interact with displays and consider the curatorial choices that have been made.
To Gain New Perspectives
Standing before objects that have survived for centuries in museums can give us pause and inspire reflection. Encountering artifacts that have endured tumultuous periods of history reminds us of our small place within the larger sweep of the human story.
Museums help us cultivate philosophical perspectives on what is truly important and enduring in life. When we see ancient sculptures, paintings, and cultural artifacts, we are prompted to consider which human accomplishments – both material and spiritual – have withstood the test of time. The fragility and fleetingness of our own lives and creations are brought into sharp relief against the backdrop of objects that trace a continuity of human thought, experience, and expression across eons.
To Spark Memories
Museum objects have the power to activate a flood of memories from our own lives, whether of people, places, or experiences. A piece of art may remind us of a family vacation, a cultural artifact may evoke memories of our grandparents’ home, and a historical object may transport us back to our childhood.
These memories ignited by museums like the WW2 museum in Wisconsin exhibits leave us feeling connected: to our personal histories, to others through shared recollections, and to a larger sense of continuity in human experience across generations. The lives of those who created and interacted with the objects on display centuries ago intersect in a very real way with our own lives in the present.
In this way, museums become storehouses not just of cultural treasures, but of our own individual and collective memories.
For Joy And Wonder
At their core, museums allow us to experience the simple delight and awe of encountering beautiful, interesting, and unique objects. The joy and wonder museums provide is one of the most fundamental reasons people visit.