March 10th 2011

Exploring an art museum

If it’s the first time you’re stepping into an art museum, chances are you’re a little overwhelmed.

Loads of paintings live on the walls, from the thick, impasto expressionists to the wisps of light colour from the impressionists. Sculptures stand free in each room, and jewelry, photography, and media round out what’s left to see.

Before You Go

Before you head to the art gallery, visit their website. For example, you can find all of the information about Park West Galleries easily with just a few clicks. You’ll be a lot more familiar with what you’re about to see and become clearer with the collections that you’d like to check out.

The Permanent Collection

The permanent collection is the art that the museum owns. They’ve acquired it either through donation or direct purchase. This art can vary in what can be found. Generally, it ranges from ancient to modern, but some specialty museums may be different. Contemporary art museums, for example, may only house art from the twentieth-century forward.

Special Collections/Exhibits

These collections are events that take place for a limited time. They generally feature works by a specific artist or movement. Most gallery websites will offer information of when you can view it at the museum, along with other supplementary information.

While You’re There

Self-Guided Touring

Using information from the Website, a phone call, and word of mouth, you can create your own plan for the museum. Be sure to pick up a map once you enter the museum, which will help you locate what you’re keen on seeing.

Docent Touring

Docents are specially trained volunteers who provide visitors with museum and exhibit information. Often, these tours are free.

Audio Touring

Headphones will guide you through a tour of the museum’s permanent collection. These are often available for special exhibits, too. These tours have a fee.


Museums often house lectures, concerts and other events to accompany what is going on in the museum. Art historians, artists, musicians, and other experts complement the current exhibitions.


Educational events and programming is available for children, families, and adults at most museums. These include activities, art classes, certificates, and libraries.

Exploring the Art Work

Each piece of art work contains two things: an identification card and curatorial comments. The identification card contains the artist’s name, nationality, date of birth and death, along with the title of the artwork, date, medium, dimensions, name of the collection it belongs to, and the acquisition details. The curatorial comments are prepared by the curators with an explanation about the artwork and/or artist.

What to Remember

While at the museum, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Stay about a foot away from the works of art. Do not touch them. Really.

2. Don’t cause a ruckus; it is a library-like atmosphere.

3. Feel free to ask questions to the museum staff. They are there to help and, chances are, love to discuss the artwork.

4. Often, there is no flash photograph. Ask the staff for the rules.

5. Don’t bring in food or beverages.

Art galleries can be an enlightening, peaceful experience. Whether you’re an art connoisseur, or exploring for the first time, there is something for everyone.

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Andrew's Biography

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Andrew loves art and design, and pursues his studies in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He loves seeking out new artists and giving them their dues, and in his spare time, focuses on his own abstract sculpture.