Rules of the Road

Finally it’s time to establish the ground rules for this project.  What am I doing and what am I going to get out of it, and what do I need to track?

Let’s start with the point of a museum in the first place.  There are two threads going back to their earliest days.  

Entertainment.  Think Barnum’s American Museum, the ancestor of Madame Tussaud’s.  The “dime museum” tradition.  


Edification. Giving the huddled masses a chance to see beautiful or interesting things and learn about the wider world was viewed as a civic good by many of the industrialists whose collections and money launched the great museums of the city in the mid-nineteenth century. The Met was founded on the idea that a museum should (quoting the Encyclopedia of the City of New York’s entry on museums) “promote education and social and moral betterment.”

I’ll avoid the arguments ongoing about how museums are changing their missions and programming in reckless pursuit of a shifting balance between entertainment and edification.  In an ideal world a museum should do both.

So my plan is to offer a brief summary of my experience with each place I visit here, with a standardized rating system of from zero to five Old Met Logo Pins assessing (in my opinion):

  • How edifying the museum is — how much better am I as a person for visiting;
  • How entertaining it is — how much fun I had; and
  • How much I think everyone should visit.I considered other more complicated rubrics but that seems sufficient.  And I’m going to try not to judge museums against one another.  It’s not like the Met is the Platonic Ideal and all others can get at most 4 stars. I’ll try to assess each against its own mission statement, large or small.

    I’ll also note how much time I spent at each place, and list the single best thing I saw or learned.  And anything else noteworthy that happened along the way.

    I’ve also given some thought to order. As I was first thinking about doing this, the most OCD part of my brain thought that it should be done in alphabetical order.  That is emphatically not going to happen.  It won’t even be alphabetical by borough.  I am putting together a project plan that groups museums by proximity, opening hours/times, and likely visit durations to make things more efficient and give me roadmap.  For my own interest and sanity, I’ll mix it up a bit. Do some of the far-flung ones, but follow that up with a chunk of Manhattan.  I’ll tag posts by borough, neighborhood, and type of museum for sort-ability.

    One more thing.  After much thought, I have decided that if I’ve visited a museum in the past six months, I get a pass on going anew.  I’ll of course write about them here, based on my memory of the visit.

Let the games begin!