Gift Shop

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

10 museum-related gift ideas to jump start your holiday gift buying…

For: The Natural Historian

Geode Puzzles inspired by agate formations, and just like those colorful stones, each puzzle is unique.

Geode Puzzle by Nervous System.

For: The Foodie

If you have an adventurous cookbook collector on your gift list this year, consider the recently republished Les Diners de Gala, Salvador Dali’s surrealist cookbook. There’s a whole chapter devoted to aphrodisiacs, pages of the artist’s unusual drawings, and head-scratching recipes like “Toffee with Pine Cones.”

For: The Craft Lover

For a real splurge, spring for an intensive clay retreat at New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch, Georgia O’Keeffe’s former desert retreat. But, if you’re in the market for something less time and cost intensive, sign up for craft workshops at any number of museums like L.A.’s Craft and Folk Art Museum (recent offerings include a Clay Night at Angel City Brewery and a circular knitting class that sends you home with your own loom) or the Victoria & Albert Museum (Female Gaze photography, wood engraving).

Photo by jlgavino via Flickr.

For: The Music Lover

The V&A had quite the lineup of musical offerings in their galleries this year, with such diverse offerings as Opera (gift ideas: opera fan brooch or soprano socks) and Pink Floyd (illustrated exhibition catalog).

Soprano Socks from the V&A Shop.

For: The Fashionista

It was quite the year for fashion in museums, with shows dedicated to Dior, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Rei Kawakubo, Anna Sui, Olivier Theyskens, and Dior again. And don’t forget the opening of the new Yves Saint-Laurent museums in Paris and Marrakech. There was even a charming exhibition of 1950s Vogue fashion illustrator Brian Stonehouse’s work. All this means that there is a wealth of beautiful exhibition catalogs to choose from, like this, this, and this. Or, there’s always the eminently practical How to Tie a Scarf.

One of the custom prints available from the Balenciaga exhibition.

For: The Kids

A museum visit goes a little sideways in this charming illustrated book, A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum. Also, MoMA always has cute gifts for kids, like New York in a Bag and Penguin Bowling.

For: The History Buff

As the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation kicking into high gear, there were no shortage of Reformation related exhibitions in 2017. So consider picking up a copy of the new Martin Luther biography from Eric Metaxas for a little perspective on the whole affair.

For: The Feminist

While art is just one of the areas covered in this collection of essays by Siri Hustvedt, A Woman Looking at Men Looking At Women is a thought-provoking look at “the perceptual and gender biases that affect how we judge art, literature, and the world in general.”

For: The Philanthropist

Today may be #GivingTuesday, but any day is a good day to donate to a museum or library, especially one in a city affected by hurricanes this year.

For: The Architect

This year, the Barbican presented a beautiful study of home design with The Japanese House: Architecture and Life After 1945. Check out related products here. In fact, the Barbican’s shop is full of architecture-related gifts, especially if your gift recipient is into Brutalism. Elsewhere, the V&A tackled Plywood, Copenhagen’s Louisiana Museum of Art went inside the studio of Wang Shu, and the world looked back at Frank Lloyd Wright (like MoMA, the Bowers Museum, and all over Chicago). Perhaps some Frank Lloyd Wright ornaments are in order? For something more indulgent, secure a spot on a Frank Lloyd Wright tour to Japan, Vienna, Paris, Brussels and beyond in 2018.

Photo of Beth Shalom Synagogue by Jay Reed via Flickr.


Museum Hacktivity

I wouldn’t say that I normally encourage slapping a museum, but there is a time and place for everything. The time and place in question was The Getty Center at the conclusion of a Museum Hack tour.

Museum Hack, often described as a renegade tour company, first came to my attention several years ago when I was living in Philadelphia, but it took both of us moving to Los Angeles to finally get together. This past May, Museum Hack announced that it was bringing its popular and off-beat tours to the Getty, and were kind enough* to let me tag along on one of their first offerings.

The tour may have started wonderfully, but I wouldn’t know because I got there late (tip for future tour participants at the Getty: arrive much earlier than you think you need to because the lines for the tram can be very long on weekends). In spite of my tardiness, our guide Adrian couldn’t have been nicer about bringing me into the fold, going so far as to do another quick ice breaker to introduce my fellow participants. And, make no mistake, this is a group tour…camaraderie, teamwork, mini competitions, hands-in-let’s-cheer-together, the whole shebang.

As for the art, Adrian was able to highlight many of the non-highlights of the Getty’s collection and make them compelling, including various appearances by Zeus, a sculpture with a detachable penis, the fascinating backstory of Mary Seacole, costly fakes, and 18th century hairstyling tips. She even took a quick Polaroid of you in front of your favorite painting.

As the tour wound down, we ended up outside for a debriefing, and that is when the slapping began. There is a wall made of travertine stone that when you strike its various blocks, makes hollow sounding musical notes. My tour mates and I pounded away on the wall as a form of drum roll as Adrian announced the winner of one of the contests and distributed bits of Museum Hack swag. Banging on that wall was fun, a little unexpected, and informative, which is essentially what Museum Hack tours are all about.

Museum Hack tours are currently available in New York City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia (currently only team building tours).

What’s your favorite museum tour?

***Full Disclaimer: Though I was given free tickets from Museum Hack to attend this tour, all opinions expressed are my own.


Read Before You Go (May 2017)

It’s common to want to know more about an artist or object on display after you’ve already seen them, but why not take a page out of the Boy Scouts’ playbook and be prepared.

Here are five exhibitions and two museum openings (some opening this month, others ongoing) paired with the books to read ahead of time to get the most out of your museum experience…


California: Designing Freedom
Design Museum (London, UK)
Opens May 24

The design influence of California is a bit inescapable—iPhone in your pocket, succulents on the windowsill, artisan juice shops down the street, festival fashion, and much more—so it’s no wonder its getting its own museum exhibition. London’s Design Museum tackles the state’s influence through the lens of the myriad ways in which it espouses freedom: Frank Gehry’s architecture, Snapchat glasses, self-driving cars, pop art, rainbow flags, etc.

Read Before You Go: California is a big state, so it is difficult for one book to entirely capture its ethos, but Where I Was From by Joan Didion does an admirable job exploring the roots of the state’s drive for self-sufficiency. Emma Cline’s much buzzed about novel The Girls paints a picture of Manson-era Sonoma County, while Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore deals with some of the tech scene’s mentality.

The American Writers Museum (Chicago, IL)
Open Now

This museum dedicated to the craft of American writers has finally opened on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, but it is a far cry from the image of stuffy libraries or archives. With over 11,000 square feet of exhibition space, they have clearly tried to incorporate all the bells and whistles of a modern museum experience—pushing a plaque for Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking releases a waft of fresh baked cookies into the air—and overall gives off a populist rather than high-brow vibe.

Read Before You Go: Reread anything by your favorite American author, or perhaps a book about American writers like Hothouse, which explores the compelling history of publishing house Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Author biographies are another great choice: try Savage Beauty, Nancy Milford’s examination of Edna St. Vincent Millay, or Justin Martin’s Rebel Souls, which tackles Walt Whitman and American’s early bohemians.

The Western: An Epic in Art and Film
Denver Art Museum (Denver, CO)
Opens May 27

Through 160 works, this exhibition tries to take a deeper look at the Western genre, even discussing such issues as gender roles, race relations, and gun violence (sounds pretty relevant, huh?) that underlie our understanding of cowboys and the Wild West.

Read Before You Go: The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel goes behind the scenes of the famous John Wayne film, The Searchers.

Vikings: Beyond the Legend
Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Denver, CO)
Through August 13

Staying in Denver, check out the city’s science museum as they take on the one-dimensional image of the Vikings to get to know the rich culture and society that lay beyond the horned helmets.

Read Before You Go: Before you go “beyond the legend” with this exhibition, it might help to get to know the legend itself a little better. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is an easily digestible intro to the myths of Odin, Loki, and, of course, Thor.

After the Bees
Manchester Museum (Manchester, UK)
Through July

If you don’t know about colony collapse yet, you should, and what better place to start than at this exhibition that showcases the consequences of a world without bees.

Read Before You Go: The Bees by Laline Paull is sold with the lure of being The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games, but with bees! All hyperbole aside, it’s a taut little thriller set in a bee hive.

Museum of the American Revolution (Philadelphia, PA)
Now Open

As if you weren’t able to get your Revolutionary Era fix in Philadelphia before, you really have no excuse now with the opening of this museum right on Independence Mall.

Read Before You Go: There are more than enough good reads about the American Revolution, but perhaps you can use this as an excuse to finally getting around to reading Ron Chernow’s excellent biographies on Hamilton or Washington. If those are too daunting for you, consider Sarah Vowell’s humorous look at the Revolutionary Era with Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.

Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style
Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, MA)
Opens May 20

Because summer is approaching and summer means travel, why not look back to a time when getting from here to there was a little more glamorous than middle seats and long security lines.

Read Before You Go: Transatlantic by Stephen Fox is a nonfiction look at Cunard and the age of the great Atlantic steamship. If fiction is more your speed, try The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje, which explores a great ocean journey from the perspective of a young, lower-class passenger.


Links and More


Cover of Ben Gijsemans' graphic novel Hubert.

Cover of Ben Gijsemans’ graphic novel Hubert.

“Hubert lives alone in a flat in Belgium and watches his neighbors through the windows. He spends his days at an art museum, rarely interacting with others…” A little blurb in The Paris Review led me to this graphic novel about loneliness, love, and art.

All hail Gertrude Abercrombie, Queen of the Bohemians!

Speaking of forgotten artists, how about the women of the Bauhaus. Oh, and Fanny Mendelssohn too.

Just what you always needed: Hieronymus Bosch figurines.

A look at Philly’s new Museum of the American Revolution. And here too.

The age-old museum gift shop conundrum: when your best-sellers are embarassingly low-brow and barely relate to your mission.

Will that be cash, credit, or blood? New ways to pay at the museum.

Helpful visitor experience data or privacy invasion? On museums tracking visitors through the Wifi.

These scientists are trying to capture the essence of history through smell.









Exhibition Preparation: Read Before You Go (February 2017)

It’s common to want to know more about an artist or object on display after you’ve already seen them, but why not take a page out of the Boy Scouts’ playbook and be prepared.

Here are four exhibitions (some opening this month, others ongoing) and the books to read ahead of time to get the most out of your museum experience…


Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear
Victoria & Albert Museum—Through March 12, 2017

With over 200 undergarments from the 18th century to the present on display, a lot of sartorial ground is covered in this exhibition. However, beyond the fashion of it all, it is the societal implications of underwear that really fascinates.

Read Before You Go: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners by Therese Oneill is a humorous look at womanhood in the Victorian Age, and yes, that includes underwear.


Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant
Museum of Food and Drink—Through April 2, 2017

Celebrating the 170-year history of the Chinese American restaurant, this exhibition not only showcases artifacts like a timeline of menus dating back to 1910, but also features tastings from some of the country’s best Chinese American chefs. Also, given the current climate in America, this exhibition couldn’t be a more timely look at immigration and all that it contributes to the fabric of our lives.

Read Before You Go: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8 Lee is a perfect complement to MOFAD’s exhibition.


Merce Cunningham: Common Time
Walker Art Center—Through July 30, 2017MCA Chicago—Through April 30, 2017

Back in 1963, renowned choreographer Merce Cunningham and collaborators like Robert Rauschenberg (who had designed the sets) arrived at the Walker Art Center to stage a performance. Now, the Walker Art Center (and Chicago’s MCA) is showcasing this and other artistic collaborations in a noteworthy retrospective.

Read Before You Go: Chance and Circumstance is a memoir by Carolyn Brown, a founding member of Cunningham’s dance company, and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the man, his vision, and the artistic world of dance in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.


Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flanerie
Barnes Foundation—February 25, 2017 through May 22, 2017

This exhibition brings together old and new works by more than 50 international artists who have found their inspiration by hitting the streets. And, since the art of flanerie could never be confined to a single gallery, you’ll find programs and performances spilling out onto the streets of Philadelphia.

Read Before You Go: Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin flips the predominantly male image of the flaneur on its head.



Getty Getaway

How hot is it in L.A. today?

How hot is it in L.A. today?

“You don’t really like beach reads, do you?”


My boyfriend nods at the book I’m reading: a compilation of William Shirer’s radio broadcasts from WWII Berlin.

I shrug, “We’re not at the beach.”

“Might as well be.”

And he’s right. It’s 106 degrees outside and our 1920s-era apartment on L.A.’s East Side is not coping well with the heat. So, we do what any sane, sweltering Angelino would do: head towards the water.


I didn’t bring my beach read though, because we’re not visiting the beach itself, but just beside it, where the Getty Villa lies nestled in the hills of Malibu/Pacific Palisades.


It has been a year since I last visited a museum, but the cool marble-lined villa, gurgling water features, and sea breeze off the Pacific were the perfect excuse to rejoin the ranks of museum visitors. I had no agenda: no must-see items, no massive crowds to fight my way through, no planning of any sort. And it was lovely. Just walked around, snapped some pictures (no flash!), and was completely relaxed. I haven’t enjoyed a museum visit this much in a very long time.



Museums to See: Helsinki

Helsinki, Finland

Nordic countries have been on my mind a lot lately between wanting to stay in Norway’s Juvet Hotel, reading classic groundbreaking mysteries from Swedish duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, and noting the impending closure of Copenhagen’s Noma. Then there’s Finland, who I have mainly known for their focus on the future, revolutionary educational theories, and saunas. But it wasn’t until reading about Helsinki in a recent issue of the British version of Conde Nast Traveller that I thought much about Helsinki’s museum offerings. Here are just a few of the cultural institutions I’ve been missing out on…

Red Wall/Blue Wall. Photos by Milka Varmola (left) and Niina Vatanen (right)—both of Finnish National Gallery—via Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma's Flickr stream.

Red Wall/Blue Wall.
Photos by Milka Varmola (left) and Niina Vatanen (right)—both of Finnish National Gallery—via Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma’s Flickr stream.

Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art

A contemporary art museum associated with the Finnish National Gallery, Kiasma is appealing as much for its architectural assets as for its artistic collection. When designing the museum, architect Steven Holl was particularly focused on how the building’s shapes and spaces would interact with light, and I particularly like how there seems to be a general surfeit of straight lines. Their collection has about 8500 works, but there is a constant rotation of exhibitions to keep things fresh.

Scenes from the Design Museum. Photos (clockwise from top) by Ilkka Jukarainen, Martin Terber, and Katja Nevalainen via Flickr.

Scenes from the Design Museum.
Photos (clockwise from top) by Ilkka Jukarainen, Martin Terber, and Katja Nevalainen via Flickr.

Design Museum
Even though it’s over 140 years old, Helsinki’s Design Museum manages to showcase why Finnish design (industrial, fashion, graphic, etc.) still makes such an impact today.

Light and Dark at the Ateneum. Both photos by ri Sa via Flickr.

Light and Dark at the Ateneum.
Both photos by ri Sa via Flickr.

Ateneum Museum
Fun fact: when the Ateneum acquired Street in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1903, it became the first museum to own a Van Gogh. And that’s not the only jewel in their collecting crown. For nearly 130 years, this outpost of the Finnish National Gallery has built up a solid collection of roughly 4400 works of art, which, in addition to an extensive catalog of Finnish art, includes appearances by Modigliani, Cezanne, Munch, and Goya.

A Welcoming Party. Photo by Tomi Tapio K via Flickr.

A Welcoming Party.
Photo by Tomi Tapio K via Flickr.

Finnish Museum of Natural History
This place seems to have more personality than most natural history museums I have seen or read about. I mean, just look at those giraffes having tea on the museum’s balcony.

Coming Soon…Guggenheim Helsinki
Back in June 2015, Paris-based firm Moreau Kusnoki was announced as the winner of the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition. Over 1700 entries were submitted for the creation of the latest outpost of the Guggenheim art empire. There’s no set opening date yet, but when the series of “darkly clad pavilions” does make its debut you will definitely hear about it.


Rest and refresh your tired museum legs. Photos by Mme Passepartout and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma via Flickr.

Bonus Mention…Museum Cafes
These do not look those fast-casual places or bland cafeterias I have found in many U.S. museums. Kiasma’s cafe focuses on local Nordic produce and serves up cava, while the Design Museum cafe looks like an artisan coffee shop. Out at the Suomenlinna Fortress they have a brewery, a pizzeria, and at least ten other dining options.

Seeing Them All
The Helsinki Card gets you free access to 28 of Helsinki’s museums and dozens of other discounts and deals across the city for between 39-59 euros.



What I’m Reading: Jazz, Jimi, and Janitors Edition

Photo by Jimmy Baikovicius via Flickr.

Photo by Jimmy Baikovicius via Flickr.

1) Museumist has written about art museum Super Bowl bets in the past, and even tweeted about the book-based trash talking that Kansas City and Toronto public libraries were engaged in just this week. Now, the world of museums and sports are colliding in a jazzy way. Kansas City’s American Jazz Museum and the Louis Armstrong House Museum based in New York City have put their gift shops on the line over the outcome of the Royals-Mets World Series.

2) Speaking of musical mashups, did you know George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix were neighbors? Though over 200 years apart, they lived next door to each other on Brook Street in London’s Mayfair neighborhood. This February, you can experience this musical odd couple’s co-existence with the opening of Handel & Hendrix in London.

3) Halloween is nigh, and no one is geeking out over the holiday quite like museums. Pictorial examines the Halloween-inspired nerd fest that museums are engaging in on Instagram.

4) My heart goes out to the cleaning lady at the Museion Bozen-Bolzano, a contemporary art museum in South Tyrol, who threw an entire art installation in the trash thinking it was detritus from a party the night before. If she just threw it away because she thought it was bad art, then I might think she’s a bit of a bad ass.

5) Someone else who is having a bad week is the Museum of the Bible, and they haven’t even opened yet.  They are under investigation for violating the 8th Commandment—that one about bearing false witness— over 200-300 illegally imported artifacts seized by customs.


You Can’t Please Everybody

Photo by John Fischer via Flickr.

Photo by John Fischer via Flickr.

This past August, Mother Jones ran an article exploring the wonderfully amusing world of one-star reviews that people award the United States’ National Parks. Of course, sometimes natural beauty is not enough and people may have legitimate grievances about their visit—rude staff, dirty bathrooms, etc.—but sometimes people are just being irrational and write reviews complaining about how the desert is “too hot.” As a result, I was inspired to explore some of the bad reviews that people post about some of the world’s more well-known museums, and, wouldn’t you know it, our cultural institutions’ overall ratings are constantly being dragged down by confounding and humorous posts from the discontented. Here’s a brief look at some visitors’ complaints…

On the Insufficient Benefits of Using a Corporate Card

In a review of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Anthro Food E. noted: “…I did come in later though just out of curiosity, but with my corporate discount (free) card of course (since i refuse to pay any amount of money to see antiques collecting dust)…and after 10 minutes, i already had ADD…i wasnt interested in any of the fake rembrandts they had to show at this museum nor any other pieces of art here either…” Quite frankly, I’m surprised they made it 10 minutes.

On Being Lured in By the Swirly Things

Now, I am among those that think cramming a trip to the Louvre into your Parisian itinerary is a bit of a waste. Apparently, Franq F. of Los Angeles agrees with me, but for different reasons. Here’s his one-star review on Yelp:

So, like, we were so excited to go to this museum because it was on so many websites. Well, we were absolutely disgusted and felt so ripped off. They totally fool you with all the new stuff outside, like all the cool glass stuff and swirly things and new, clean stuff. THEN when you go inside, IT IS DISGUSTING. There is literally like all old things, it is dark and so, so old. All of the paintings are so old, they are cracked; SICK! Who cares, none of it even looks real or anything. What a joke. It’s like, “Hey, France, way to trick us into thinking it was going to be a new, clean museum but then we get inside and it is ‘tow up.!” They obviously lure you in with the good stuff and then you are in this musty piece of junk. Like, you’re FRANCE…a country; why did you do it on the cheap, why not knock the junky crap building down and start over. It was such a rip. Fail.

Photo by TMAB2003 via Flickr.

Photo by TMAB2003 via Flickr.

On How to Deal with Being the Cause of Environmental End Times

A few Yelp commenters remarked that the California Academy of Sciences was a little too on-message with the whole global warming thing, but Rob S. had a suggestion for how visitors can cope: “…the lesson that man is killing off just about everything and diligently working toward environmental end times is woven into just about every exhibit. If you wanted to create a drinking game geared toward alcohol poisoning, just take a shot every time you see a reference to global warming, a species or area being threatened by man or the fragility of our planet.”

On Staff Recommendations

Having worked in and around museums for nearly a decade, I’m not immune to the fact that museum security guards are not universally loved. One commenter, particularly displeased with the guards at the Met, offered this suggestion: “The security staff here can DIAF, please.” That’s Die In A Fire for those of you playing along at home. At least he said please.

On Backhanded Compliments

Clearly not a fan of how the Creation Museum can play a little fast and loose with the facts, Daniel T. from Denver offered up an exhibit review: “But by far, the best exhibit they have is a dinosaur with a saddle on its back. That’s right, a dinosaur wearing a fucking saddle…”

Photo by freeparking via Flickr.

Photo by freeparking via Flickr.

On Knowing Your Demographics

Museums spend plenty of time and money dealing with demographics research, figuring out who comes to the museum and why. Unfortunately, it seems that museum goers don’t spend nearly enough time considering whether or not their interests match with the institution they’re about to visit. One Yelp commenter has stepped into the void to provide truly useful information for those considering visiting the Vatican Museum: “…unless you’re religious or into art, it’s lame and uncomfortable.” Did you get that? If you’re not religious, not into art, and not into religious art, it might be best to avoid visiting a massive art museum attached to a massive religious institution that is chock full of religious art. Now you know.

On Truth in Advertising

When I first read this review of the San Diego Zoo, I felt compelled to find out if they were joking. Then I realized I didn’t care.

After an exhaustive journey I sat down for lunch at the Jungle Terrace and ordered what they called an ‘Elephant Burger.’ It was then that I learned the secret they don’t want anybody to know about: they don’t actually serve the animals that they keep at the zoo in the restaurants! There was no freakin’ elephant in my burger at all. Can you believe that!? What a ripoff!

On Existential Questions

Finally, back at the Met, Nathaniel L. poses this age-old question: “If you’re not allowed to touch the paintings, what’s the point in even going?”


Do you have any wonderful negative museum reviews, written or overheard? Share them in the comments below.


All the Places I Didn’t Go

Photo by Museumist.

One of the places I did go.

It got too hot, which was an odd thing to say for November, especially only two days removed from the white-out snowy conditions of high desert New Mexico. This was a different desert, though. This was drought-be-damned-I’m-growing-a-golf-course Palm Springs. Almost six months into a still-incomplete road trip, pausing in the California oasis town to celebrate Thanksgiving, I suggested a walk down to the Botanical Gardens to check things out. I didn’t make it. It got too hot, and the gardens became just one more place I didn’t visit.

Over the course of my travels, I attended a pre-wedding cocktail party on the roof of the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin, but didn’t see any of the collection contained within; and it was too near closing time at Hearst Castle when the coast road of Big Sur beckoned. No one shared my enthusiasm—including a three-year-old big rig devotee—for a trip to the Iowa 80 Truck Stop Trucking Museum, and, in an effort to catch the last half of the Women’s World Cup final, I ran past the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art to snag a bar stool at a student bar nearby. And, when my car nearly broke down in Bend, Oregon, I began to wonder if it was because it was against a trip to the High Desert Museum.

Excuses, reasons, and explanations aside, sometimes a trip is better off for all the places you were supposed to visit, but didn’t. For instance, I harbor no regrets for missing the Vacuum Cleaner Museum in St. James, Missouri, because further down the road one of the more awesome thunderstorms of my life rolled up as the landscape gave way to the open plains of Oklahoma. The Shell Museum in Sanibel, Florida, surely forgave me for passing up an annual visit in favor of tossing Cat Paws into the Gulf of Mexico with my niece instead. A bowl of artichoke soup at Duarte’s in Pescadero, California, was worth missing out on any of San Francisco’s myriad cultural institutions.

A look from inside Penetrabile at LACMA.

A look from inside Penetrabile at LACMA.

It hasn’t always been this way. I have long assumed the role of tour guide in my family, and my early itineraries were jam-packed with must see sites of cultural and historical import. One day in Rome? You have to see the Vatican Museum. Right? Well, no, it turns out. I’ve learned that being lured away from a planned museum visit for something unexpected is not nearly as disappointing as once believed. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the few museum visits I’ve managed to make over the past year and a half—a walk through the spaghetti-like strands of Penetrabile at LACMA is oddly soothing—but I no longer have that fear of missing out that used to follow a missed museum connection.

Perhaps one day I’ll make it back to Nashville and visit the Johnny Cash Museum, and on a repeat visit to Buffalo I will most likely choose the Albright-Knox instead of Niagara Falls. It’s possible I may stop into the Valley Forge Visitor’s Center instead of walking a six-mile loop around the park for exercise, and it seems unlikely, but I may even make it to the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings somewhere down the line. But, for now, they’ll just remain some of the many places I didn’t go.