Museum FatigueBored? It’s not your fault.

Museum FatigueBored? It’s not your fault.

Issue 50


Arts & Culture

  • Words Thea Hawlin
  • Photograph Rala Choi

It’s only been an hour but you’re tired. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has somehow become humdrum: Your neck hurts from craning to see beyond the crowds and, despite the famous objects on show, you’re struggling to maintain a sense of wonder. 

If this sounds familiar, then you’ve likely experienced museum fatigue. The term was coined by Benjamin Ives Gilman, the secretary of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in The Scientific Monthly in 1916. Gilman blamed museum fatigue on the physical demands of inspecting artworks—peering into vitrines, reading the accompanying labels and walking between galleries. In 1985, a study in Florida showed that visitor interest peaked after around half an hour, and extensive research by museum exhibition consultant Beverly Serrell in the 1990s co...

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