I’ll admit: there are things I take for granted about spending every weekday in a museum. Familiarity with a place can dull your appreciation of it, to be sure—I work down the hall from the first T-rex ever discovered, how many people can say that?—but it can also present an opportunity to experience the place in new ways.
One of the things I’ve come to find the most interesting when walking through our galleries is observing how other people interact with the space: the works they gravitate toward, how much time they spend absorbing each piece, their body language as they move through the exhibit. Everyone experiences culture differently. The same painting to ten different sets of eyes can tell ten wildly divergent stories. It’s a fun exercise to imagine as many as you can.
Of course, I tend to be a people-watcher in general. Years of writing courses taught me that. (Photography has only exacerbated the condition.)
It’s not a bad affliction to have, all things considered. Awareness of the world around you often translates to awareness of the self— and isn’t self-awareness something we should all strive for?
There are a lot of interesting things out there, if we only pay attention.
Observation is a skill in everyone’s toolkit. Wielding it well can make it a secret weapon.