It's no secret that I love museums. I work in them, I read in them, I drag innocent bystanders (like my husband) through them for hours on end. But if there is one thing I will not do -- almost as a rule -- it is go on tours. Something about being paraded around the artwork, marked as a tourist for all to see, is just not at all fun for me. I want to move fast, sit for long periods of time, linger where I want. Freedom, to me, is the cornerstone of enjoying a museum.
So when I was approached by the NYC-based company Museum Hack with an offer of a free tour of DC's National Gallery of Art, I was hesitant. A tour? Me? Could I handle two hours of being led around my favorite museum? In the end I figured, why not? I ate my pride and signed up, expecting a draggy afternoon with a huge group of people getting in the way of the free, fun-having solo visitors.
Imagine my surprise when, given my expectations, I was sad to see the tour end. Museum Hack tours are not your average tour -- in fact, they are ideal for people who don't even like tours. I had more fun in those two hours than I thought possible, and learned things that I continue to share with family and friends even a few weeks later.
Started in NYC a few years ago, Museum Hack only recently expanded to DC. They offer tours of museums focused not on giving you the highlights, but on giving you the deeper story. Their tours are built around the idea that museums are fun spaces, not just stuffy archives. And that ethos is something that I was drawn to from the very beginning of the tour. We weren't being talked at -- we were exploring.
Molly, our tour guide, was a delight. She led our small group of just five throughout the museum quickly, with a conspiratorial sense of adventure that kept me thrilled the entire time. The stories she shared were incredible -- intrigue, late night calls from the Kremlin, mysteries, robber barons. The tour was as much about art history as it was the history of DC, the culture of competition in the art world, and the linkages between art and society on a larger level.
But if that sounds dry, don't get Museum Hack twisted. A few wonderful activities kept things unpredictable. My personal favorite: My Dutch Nightmare, during which we all had to take pictures of a Dutch painting that represented our (you guessed it) worst nightmare. We had so much fun, in fact, that we decided to come up with our own scavenger hunt style approach to exploring downtown for our wedding weekend.
When the two hour tour was coming to a close, I was legitimately bummed to see it end. I wanted more weird facts and fascinating stories about the museum I so often spend time at. Museum Hack showed me a different side of a place I already love, making art history accessible in a way that gets past the often stuffy appearances of the art world. It may not be a tour in the traditional sense, but it is something better.
If you're in NYC or DC, check out Museum Hack's tours!
Bridey is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C.
All Activism Amanda Palmer Annie Atkins Awareness Book Review Caitlin Moran Call The Midwife Darling Forbes Freelance Tips Freelance Writing History Literally Living With Cats Michel Gondry Millennials Mood Indigo NO TOFU Pamela Anderson Pet Tips Robin Williams Small Space Living Summer The Boxtrolls The Grand Budapest Hotel Tiny Home Welcome What I've Learned Writing