How to Make Sense of Museum Visits

Dan Nguyen
July 2, 2018

Imagine getting lost on a strange island. It isn’t that different from going abroad. You are on a treasure hunt that brings you from one awe-inspiring moment to another confusing one. Every new city is full of trapdoors and cleft that plunge you into its past and vicissitudes of changes. Look around you; they are everywhere. Each metro stop takes you to a place you haven’t seen before. Behind every corner, local shops and plazas tell the vibrant ways of lives that you have yet encountered. Along the ordinary roads, each one might be named after an important figure or historical event. In sum, you need to do some research to get to know this island and its people. That is where the role of museums come in.

Museums serve as a communicative device between man and history, in an osmotic dialogue with the past, presence, and future. Whether it is a museum of modern art, a museum of archeology, a museum of romanticism or a palace, being in a museum means being absorbed by vortices that transmit you to a different time. Once you cross its threshold, you must allow yourself to be placed in a temporal depth: the depth of not only the objects being displayed but the time period that they represent. You must allow your eyes to wander as it is pleasing while asking yourself if you see more than an art form. If you don’t, use your imagination.

I realize that once I let my imagination run wild in the middle of an exhibition while keeping it parallel to the past, I’m comprehending the present flow and prefigure the future. Of course, there is no one way to enjoy a museum visit. You don’t have to imagine characters popping out of surrealism paintings all the time. All you must do is to take a deep breath and to plan enough time for the museum to hypnotize you like a time machine made of tangible objects. Remember this: "You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul," says George Bernard. 

This article is not a straightforward answer to the question mentioned in the title. I don’t intend it to be; I want it to reflect the thoughts that I encountered when I tried to get to know a city through its museums and history. I want my writing to be an ambiguous layout of directions or the subtle description underneath a piece of art that leaves the interpretation part to the readers’ experience. There is not a clear introduction, two body paragraphs, or the “what now” conclusion. I want it to be like a piece of contemporary art that left you to ponder upon for days. That is the way you should interpret museums, leaving with more questions than answers.

Dan Nguyen

<p>Dan is the first year at Yale. There is something about the invisible forces control human behavior and make up their knowledge that pokes her curiosity. Don’t get her wrong; she isn’t learning how to mind-control others, but rather to combine knowledge about people’s product preferences and spending patterns to contribute to the field of behavioral economics. When she isn’t listening to podcasts and multitasking, Dan loves to run in her neighborhood and bake for her floormates.&nbsp;</p>

2018 Summer 1, 2018 Summer 2
Home University:
Yale University
San Jose, CA
Cognitive Science
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