Why do you go to the museum?

One of my favourite places to visit in a city would probably be its museums, simply because it fascinates me how certain events, little trinkets, or even people defines a single context in time, and museums do a good job of communicating these things. A museum can exhibit anything of important value. It can be historical, cultural, scientific, or artistic. It can be about certain events, artifacts, objects, architecture, even living beings! Yep, zoos and botanical gardens are also museums.

Now, I don’t go to the museum to simply gawk or to be entertained, but to learn; to satisfy my curiosity towards specific things. I may not always have a concrete objective of what I want to learn, but discovering something new is a positive value. For example, I visited the safari park several days ago because I was curious about the animals there, and at the end of the day I ended up knowing a tad bit more than I did on hawks and eagles. I visited House of Sampoerna not because I love cigars and tobacco (I don’t, by the way), but at the end I learned about vintage handmade cigarettes — oh and there’s a lovely art gallery there too, if I may point it out. Learning and gaining something new is a major motivation for me to visit museums. I’d rather do that than being stuck at a shopping mall date or a boring movie date.


House of Sampoerna has the prettiest museum doors


Art gallery at House of Sampoerna


Safari snippets

As it turns out, there’s this interesting study on types on museum visitors based on people’s motivation and characterization:

Explorers—Explorers come because attending museums interests them and appeals to their curiosity. If you asked them if they like art they would say ‘yes;’ if you asked them if they came for something in particular, they would probably say ‘no,’ they ‘just like art and know what they like when they see it.’ They do not have concrete learning goals, like ‘I’m going to go to the MIA to learn everything I can about Expressionism,’ but they like to know new things. This type could really be anyone. Exlporers’ goal is to satisfy a curiosity. They may or may not know how to use the space.

Facilitator—Facilitators come because of someone else. They are perhaps bringing a friend or a group of people—possibly youth or students—because they think that the visit would benefit the other party or parties, not because of a personal need. Their personal need is to make a good experience for others.

Experience Seeker—An experience seeker is a person who is checking off a list of things to do, whether personal or as a tourist. They want to see the thing that is iconic of that place, they want to do ‘what you’re supposed to do in that city or area.’  They may need to see the museum’s highlights to feel satisfied.

Professional/Hobbiest—This category includes teachers, educators, museum professionals, artists, and people in related fields.  Their goals may range by their particular role as a professional or hobbiest; a photographer may attend with the goal in mind to take pictures or to learn about photography through exhibits.  An art educator may be interested in the art as in their field of interest, or they may be planning a lesson, etc.

Rechargers—Rechargers find the museum a place to ‘get away from it all,’ to decompress, and their visit is almost a spiritual one. They tend to avoid crowds or sensations and are fairly self-sufficient. A successful visit for them will leave them with the feeling that they have gotten away.

Judging from those 5 categories, I’m definitely the explorer type, though not always exactly so.

See, I also visit museums for the experience of it all. I fell in love with Surabaya and all its heat and chaos no matter how much I grumble and complain about the city, as it’s the first city I’ve lived in out of my parent’s care. Because of that, I’m determined to make it my personal mission to discover as many things as I can about the city and visit as many places as I can; thus the museum visits. What’s the use of living in Surabaya if you haven’t even stepped foot in Tugu Pahlawan? Or Monkasel? Or the iconic (and I don’t mean it in a positive way) Surabaya Zoo? And when I have visited and experienced these sites it helps me when my family and friends from out of town comes, too. I can take them to see certain exhibits because I know how compelling the experience was, and maybe even add a little more value to it.

As an architecture student, there’s a certain ‘museum’ that I love and have frequently visited: yep, it’s Kota Tua! The area around Tugu Pahlawan is known for its old colonial architecture, remnants from the Dutch occupation era. It might not be the conventional museum, but the conservation of historical sites like Kota Tua, Kya Kya, Ampel, or even Tunjungan serves as a museum in a way; it exhibits valuable artifacts that cannot be simply removed and put behind glass. And I’m quite into photography as a hobby, so visiting these beautifully decaying buildings are often backed with photo-hunting intentions.


Around the JMP – Kya Kya Area

And when I visit museums, I never want to be with the crowd. Visiting museums are an experience, as much as it is a getaway from daily life. Who ever knew that Surabaya Zoo, with all its terrible managements and issues, can serve as a peaceful space in the middle of the city? I visited the zoo for the first time and by myself around 2012. It was such a calming place it didn’t even feel like Surabaya. But that feeling didn’t last though, when I saw how awful the animals there are treated.  (The blatant corruption and inhumane attitude towards these animals are downright horrifying. I’m not sure what the last update on the zoo is about now, but as far as I know not much has changed. Please help raise awareness by signing a petition here)


From 2012. I couldn’t find my more recent photos of the zoo… but I don’t want to upload much of what I saw. The pictures circulating around the internet are already terrible enough 😦

As an avid museum visitor, it turns out that I pretty much fall into all of the categories described. I haven’t visited every museum in Surabaya though, but now that I have a lot of free time I’ll try to.

There are a lot of reasons to visit the museums,  and it’s not only divided into the five categories above. Perhaps the most appealing reason (for myself at least) is that I can spend next to nothing for an abundance of priceless experience and knowledge, bonus some pretty photos.

But how about you? Why do you go to the museum?

(I had photos from Monumen Kapal Selam, Tugu Pahlawan, Tunjungan, and others but some of the files that I had went missing, so I couldn’t show much… Sorry!)


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