Creativity and Curiosity: How curious people should visit museums

We all like to look at stuff. So why do we get bored or tired when visiting museums? That’s because museums aren’t set up for curious people. They are instead setup to teach you lessons. In my forthcoming book, A Curious Path: Creativity in an Age of Abundance, I take a whole chapter to discuss curiosity and how it works. One of the more interesting studies I came by was one called, Strategies for the Curiosity-Driven Museum Visitor, by Jay Rounds. In this, Mr. Rounds reveals the motivations behind the odd behavior of curious people visiting museums.


If you are curious by nature, here’s the shortlist. You’ll have to wait for the book for the more in-depth version.

First, locate interesting exhibits. Don’t go to all the exhibits. Once you enter a museum, get a map and see what interests you. Curious people should move around quickly in museums scanning for interesting exhibits. Also, follow the crowd. If a lot of people are gathered around something, go see.

Second, know when to focus and when to browse. Look at specific things, not general ones. More general stuff is usually less interesting. When you walk into a new room, pick out something unique and go right to it. And don’t view exhibits in order.

Third, limit wasted time on boring exhibits. If something doesn’t interest you, move on. Don’t read the labels because you feel obligated. If something doesn’t interest you from the first look, don’t wait for it to get better. Staying with boring exhibits wastes valuable time that could spent on cool stuff. The rule for large exhibition is “three strikes you’re out.” Don’t worry if the next thing around the corner will be better.

And here is an interesting follow-up exercise. Go to a museum one day and scout out items that peak your curiosity. Then on the next day, go see just the one or two objects you found most interesting. Spend a while with them, then turn around and walk right out the door. You’ll feel energized and wanting more.

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