Religious people have
their holy sites, music lovers their concert halls, and sports fans their
stadiums. For me, however, a good museum is where I’d rather be most days. It’s
all there, ready and waiting: knowledge, enlightenment, and inspiration.
Museums breathe life into my tired soul. They connect me to people and places
that are far away in distance and time. In short, museums are my cathedrals.
When I walk through
the doorway of one of the world’s great museums, I literally find it a
challenge to contain myself and act my age. My pulse rises, an embarrassing
grin stretches across my face, and my eyes dart around like an overwhelmed
predator who just stumbled upon a meadow packed with prey. I’m not sure, but I
think my hands tremble too.
Great museums are not
just warehouses where interesting things are displayed. They are gateways into
humanity. They tell our story. Some of them confess the evils that we have done
to one another, while others are like trophy rooms that show off the best of
our abilities. A good art museum, for example, reminds me that—even with our
wars, poverty and fondness for irrational distractions—being a member of the
human species is still a wonderful thing.
I advise all parents
to march their children into museums at every opportunity and by any means
necessary. Do not hesitate to threaten, pull, push, or bribe—whatever it takes.
Just get them through those doors. Once in let them explore at their own pace
and let them take the lead most of the time. It’s important; you are exposing
them to the soul of humankind. And they will be better off for it.
Visiting great art,
science, and history museums should be viewed as a right of passage for young
people. No child should pass through to adulthood without at least once
standing under the gaze of a T. Rex skeleton or staring into the eyes of a
reconstructed Australopithecus, for example. Don’t fall for the, “but museums
are boring” ruse. All children repeat this line reflexively as part of their
desperate ploy to avoid learning and secure more video game time. There have
been times when my children begged for mercy. “Please, Dad, take us to the
dentist, make us go shopping for shoes with Mom —anything but a museum!” In the
name of parental love and cruelty, however, I dragged them through those museum
doors. And every time—without exception—they loved what they discovered inside.
Mummies, dinosaurs, rockets, and bog people are definitely not boring.
The following is a
short list of museums that I consider to be among the greatest. They are listed
in no particular order. If you can, visit them soon and visit them often.
Luxor Museum – This
tiny jewel in Luxor, Egypt may be the best pound-for-pound museum in the world.
What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in quality of artifacts and
Museum of Egyptian
Antiquities – Large and bursting at the seams with archaeological riches, this
is a museum lover’s fantasy come true. From Tutankhamen’s golden treasures to
Ramses II in the flesh, it’s all here in Cairo.
Air and Space Museum – This Washington DC museum will make your head spin. It’s
the final resting place for the Wright Flyer, Lindberg’s “Spirit of St. Louis,”
the Apollo 11 command module and much more.
British Museum – This
is my pick for the world’s greatest history museum—by far. I could spend a
month wandering around the millions of artifacts here and still not want to
Museum of Natural History- You are sure to leave here with a greater
appreciation of the natural world. If you don’t, something is wrong with you.
The Louvre – Paris is
my favorite city and the Louvre is a primary reason why. This mind-boggling
collection of great art will fill your day (or week) and is sure to leave you
tired and inspired.
American Museum of
Natural History – What’s not to love here? Tons of exhibits and an ultra high-quality
wing dedicated to human evolution make this museum a standout. The adjacent
Rose Center for Earth and Space is also spectacular.
Imperial War Museum
-War may be hell but it sure can make for a great museum. This London favorite
has it all from big stuff (One of Hitler’s V2 rockets) to little stuff (battle
scenes displayed with miniature soldiers). The walk-through World War I trench
exhibit is unforgettable.
Archaeological Museum – It’s tough for a museum to compete for attention in
Greece, a country that often feels like one giant museum itself. But this
Athens treasure vault manages to hold its own.
The Field Museum –
Sue, the world’s largest and most famous T. Rex, resides in this outstanding
Chicago museum. There is also a large display window that allows visitors to
watch real paleontologists work with fossils in their onsite lab.
San Diego Museum of
Man – It was love at first sight when I visited this southern California
tribute to the wonders of anthropology. Housed in a gorgeous historic building
in beautiful Balboa Park, the Museum of Man tells much of the human story with
Museum – A visit to this massive London menagerie is sort of like exploring
Charles Darwin’s attic. The quantity and quality of exhibits can be
overwhelming—in a good way.
Kennedy Space Center
– This Florida attraction brings space exploration down to earth for all to
enjoy. There is much to see here but the Apollo Center is the most exciting by
far, as it offers the chance to see a gigantic Saturn V rocket and unique lunar
module up close. The smaller and more intimate U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame,
just down the road, is well worth visiting as well.
of Art – If I was immune to a new killer virus that wiped out humankind and
left me as the last person on Earth, this Manhattan museum is where I would go
to live out the rest of my lonely days. How’s that for an endorsement?
Guy is the author of
“Race and Reality” and “50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God”. Contact
him at [email protected]
A good art museum
reminds me that—even with our wars, poverty and fondness for irrational
distractions—being a member of the human species is still a wonderful thing.