Art Museum Etiquette 101

man standing in front of a painting

It’s easy to get carried away by the beauty of art. Still, you should always maintain your awareness of appropriate behavior in a museum if you want to have a good experience on a tour. If you follow basic art museum etiquette, the guards won’t have to come over and give you a metaphorical slap on the wrists — or worse, kick you out! Learn more about the rules of conduct at museums that you may not have known when you read this blog from FrameStore.

1. Silence

Many museums request that you keep conversations quiet, or don’t speak at all, while wandering their halls. In fact, you may be offered a guided recorded tour on an MP3 device that allows you to learn more about the artwork and listen to experts without making any noise at all. Speaking too loudly can interrupt other people’s experiences and destroy the contemplative feel of the space. If you must have a conversation, keep it about the topic at hand — the artwork at the museum. Unrelated discussions can wait until you exit the exhibition.

There are spaces, like science and children’s museums, where exuberance is not only tolerated but encouraged. The museum etiquette in these spaces is quite different, and you can trust a docent or guide to let you know what’s appropriate.

2. Photos

crowd around the mona lisa

With the advent of cell phones and more portable camera technology, it’s no surprise that everyone wants to document their experiences. Unfortunately, museum etiquette usually goes against the grain here. Some museums don’t allow photography at all and have posted notices to ensure you know. Others do allow photography but don’t want you to use a flash or get too close to the artwork to get a selfie. If you don’t see any signs posted about taking photos, ask a docent or guard before whipping out that camera phone.

3. Awareness

There’s nothing worse than visiting a monument and not being able to see a thing because of the crowds. The same applies to museum etiquette. Many famous works of art are constantly crowded with people viewing the art or taking selfies. Keep your distance from the artwork and NEVER touch anything unless specifically directed to do so. The fine art in museums is often decades (or centuries) old and can be very delicate. The lightest brush of your fingertip could cause tremendous damage! 

There are often sensors in the frame or around the artwork that notify guards of any change in temperature or motion too close to a painting, so stay far enough away not to trigger anything.

4. Bags

teens with backpacks

If you’re bringing a large bag or backpack to a museum with you, it’s customary art museum etiquette to check it in. In addition to ensuring you don’t have to lug around a heavy pack, it also prevents accidents and mishaps. There’s no reason for you to accidentally knock over a sculpture because your backpack was just too big!

Keeping these museum etiquette rules in mind will ensure you’re ready to go out and explore! Make the most of your visit when you follow our guide.