Summer Trips to Museums & Archives: 10 Things to Remember | The Armchair Genealogist
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Summer Trips to Museums & Archives: 10 Things to Remember

The summer is here, and that means as family historians we will be planning those road trips to our ancestral hometowns. Road trips usually include stops at local archives to uncover new documents and local museums where we can learn about the social history and times when our ancestors lived.

If you have plans to visit a museum or archives this summer, then you should be aware of these 10 suggestions before you go.

  1. Don’t bring your lunch - Museum and archives don’t allow eating while you view the artifacts or do your research. Check in advance to see if the museum has a cafĂ© or restaurant. Eat before or after go to a local restaurant or pack a cooler and find a nearby park.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time - Don’t rush through the exhibits or your research. Plan your day well in advance when you can give your trip the time is deserves.
  3. Leave the luggage - Just got in from the airport but your room isn’t ready, and you're trying to tour a museum while you wait. Don’t show up with your luggage in tow. The hotel will be happy to store your luggage while you wait for your room. The museum doesn’t want you dragging your luggage through their artifacts. 
  4. Don’t touch - It’s surprising how many people go to a museum and don’t realize that the artifacts are delicate and touching them increases risk of damage and deterioration.
  5. Don’t climb, sit or lean on anything - Yes, this one often needs to be spelled out as well. The 16th-century chair is not for you to rest your tired feet. While in the archives you certainly can touch the books, but follow protocol for white gloves when handling original documents. Please don’t climb the shelves because you can’t reach a book on the top shelf. Ask for help.
  6. Read the wall text - The museum spends plenty of time writing and displaying information about their exhibits. Take the time to read the information and get the most out of your visit. Leave a little more informed than when you walked in.
  7. Turn off your flash - Check with the museum and archives on their photography policy. At the very least turn off your flash, they have been known to damage the artifacts over time. When in doubt ask.
  8. Use your inside voice - It’s amazing how many people have no concept of the people around them and how the sound level of their voices can be disruptive. Use your inside voice when in museum and archives and be aware that there are others around you that you may be disturbing.
  9. Check the hours of operation - Please don’t walk in 15 minutes before closing to tour a museum that will take 2 hours to view. Check the hours of operations before you leave home and be courtesy of the staff and volunteers who work long hours.
  10. Leave a donation - Many small museums and archives do not charge for admission and if they do then it is usually a very small fee. Consider leaving a donation on your way out the door. Small museums and archives face great struggles in keeping their doors open and housing the local history of a town. If you enjoyed your visit and were able to garner some new information about your ancestors then leave a donation and show your appreciation for local museums and archives. We take them for granted and often don’t realize their importance until they are gone.