I have been thinking more about the issue of how important the entry to a museum is.
One of the things we had to do at the Museum Management Institute was to pick a museum we had never been to in San Francisco – easy for me as I had never been to any of them – and then describe everything about the experience of finding them/arriving/buying a ticket before the actual visit and how good or bad it was – in those days, mostly bad. It’s tricky once one is working in a museum to remember how off-putting they can be if you’ve never visited them. Hence, the focus on what the Sainsbury Wing looks like from outside, the metal gates, the scale of the urban/civic space between it and the Wilkins Building, what it looks like at night.
When we were first discussing the redesign of the Royal Academy, one of its most loyal donors said she always still found the courtyard a little bit off-putting as if she didn’t belong there. If she felt like that, what did everyone else feel ?
So, yes, the National Gallery is right to be paying attention to its entrance and what visitors feel.
3 thoughts on “The entry to a museum (2)”
As a totally professionally unqualified and elderly regular museum and gallery visitor, I have to say, I have never given the entrance a thought. I go for what is inside and am much more aware of things such as the ease of finding one’s way around, the approachability of the staff and even the location of the toilets! .
We recently visited the National Gallery and found it unwelcoming. Architecture was irrelevant and should not be paid too much attention. On that day there were two apparent choices: join a longish queue outside the Sainsbury Wing or claim to hold an exhibition ticket in order to enter the main building’s ground floor and go through the security check there, which managed to be both intrusive and ineffective. The contractors at that checkpoint are also instructed to annoy visitors who have been to the cafe by intercepting them for a repeat check before letting them go back into the gallery proper.
I appreciate there are issues to be solved, but for a start I suggest staff and contractors over a certain grade should have to enter and re-enter the premises as though they were unknown members of the public and that should apply to anyone who accompanies them.
Yes, I agree, the sense of welcome (or not) is about people as much as the building, not helped by the requirement for bad searches, presumably looking for tins of tomato soup. Charles