Quick Note: Museum Membership

One of my recent posts was all about discounts on admission and mentioned the North American Reciprocal Museum Association, which gives you access to over 800 institutions just by buying a membership at one of them, preferably wherever you can get the best deal.

The Harn Museum at the University of Florida now offers free admission- which includes NARM, ROAM, and CUAM access. THAT MEANS HUNDREDS OF MUSEUMS FOR FREE! Check it out here.  Essentially a digital membership card is free, you can support the museum separately, and the reciprocal benefits were provided by a donor.


Experience Music Project

I visited the EMP Museum in Seattle, and long story short: it was amazing. This is a beautiful, modern museum with exhibits on music, sci-fi, and pop culture that are interesting and relevant for people of all ages.

First, check out this building! I took so many photos just of the building itself because there is some truly innovative architecture and many different materials used.



Bonus: view from the top of the Space Needle!


If you go, make sure to ride the monorail from Seattle Center to Westlake Center; the EMP is built around the track and gives a very cool view.

On to the current exhibits. These were all interesting and impressively designed- you really feel enveloped by the subject in some of these, as EMP creates a whole atmosphere, not just displays objects.

Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds

This is a special exhibit that costs extra but is well worth it, even if you’re not particularly a Trekkie. Fans may appreciate artifacts more- the Gorn!- but the information about the history and philosophy of the show is valuable to all.

From the EMP website: Fifty years after a show with modest ratings called Star Trek first aired, its stories continue to echo worldwide. Its famous opening line, “To boldly go where no one has gone before…” encapsulates the heart of this iconic series: the dare to hope for a better world. As part of the franchise’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds presents the phenomenon, its enduring impact on our culture, and how Star Trek has inspired people to imagine, explore, and create.



Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction

Onward to their permanent sci-fi exhibit. This shows a huge range of pieces from different sci-fi movies and contemplates the way they reflect and guide our real world. When you enter, a sign states, “YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE SPACE ARK. This craft has been traveling the cosmos for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. It has visited many other worlds, gathering strange and unusual objects. It has also visited future Earths and alternate Earths where history took a different course. We do not know who made this craft. It is fully automated, with no crew. Its mission, apparently, is to travel, observe, and collect. Now it has arrived here to share its discoveries.”

How poetic, right? And this is another reason the EMP is so interesting- it’s very immersive. Why just put all of these pieces in a room? Why not make the entire exhibit an ark, a record of artifacts, drawing guests into a sci-fi world? There’s even an area where you can fly the ship, discover and name a star, then get your picture taken.


Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film

Full disclosure: I am a baby when it comes to horror films. I rarely watch anything scary. Yet I really enjoyed this exhibit on the psychological appeal of horror, its role in cinema and culture, and the tools film uses to achieve desired effects. This is another exhibit that is immersive- it’s dark with red tinted lighting and a labyrinth of nooks in the center of the room playing different films. Lots of cool props and a some interactive components, like a game, a screaming booth, and stations to listen to film scores and sound effects.



These are just a few of the exhibits. There’s also World of WearableArt, which was very funky and intriguing; Indie Game Revolution, which asserts that “the definition of a video game is expanding, making room for many different types of experiences” and allows visitors to play some; Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic, which explores character archetypes and had artifacts from some great films; 55 guitars on display chronologically in Guitar Gallery: the Quest for Volume; you can learn about the grunge revolution in Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses; Jimi Hendrix’s travel items, rare interviews, and artifacts are in Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad 1966- 1970; and We Are 12 about the Seattle Seahawks.


Lastly, there’s an amazing sculpture called IF VI WAS IX by Trimpin. 500 instruments, 30 computers, robotic guitars that play 1 string at a time joining others to make a chord, and headphones so visitors can listen to the resulting music. It is massive.






If you’re between 13 and 19, sign up for TeenTix to get into the EMP Museum (and tons of other cool arts and cultural locations) for just $5. On Thursdays, you can bring a friend or parent and they’ll get in for $5 too. To upgrade and include Star Trek it will still cost another $5 per person.

Here’s the EMP website.

Follow me on Instagram! I posted lots of photos from the museum.

Some Admission Discounts

So my last post was about how museums can increase accessibility, from the perspective of a museum. Today I am going to detail a few ways to get good deals on admission as a visitor. While I live in Florida, some other places are included, as well as tips on how to find programs.

Reciprocal Memberships

One of my best purchases was a student membership at the Orlando Museum of Art because 1) I love visiting, and 2) they are a SERM member. SERM is the Southeastern Reciprocal Membership program; this means that with my Orlando Museum of Art membership, I can get into lots of other museums in the region for free! Just in Tampa, there’s the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, the Henry B. Plant Museum, the Tampa Bay History Center, and the Tampa Museum of Art. Lots more museums in Florida, as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, plus a couple other museums, are on the list. That’s a ton! Be sure to look around at what is available and where you can get the cheapest membership. For example, the Tampa Museum of Art offers an individual membership for $50, but instead I bought a membership from the Orlando Museum of Art when student passes were on sale for $20.

NARM is the same thing but throughout North America. There are 842 institutions associated with this, and generally you’ll have to buy a more expensive membership such as a family pass or a higher supporter level. You can check out a map of NARM members here.

I’ve also found a Smithsonian Affiliate reciprocal program, and another reciprocal group called ROAM.

Teen and Student Deals

So many museums give discounted admission to teenagers and college students! It varies; for some huge museums where admission is already $25+, it may only be a couple dollars off with a student ID. Other museums, especially art museums from what I’ve seen, may give very cheap or free tickets. Always check.

There are also programs designed specifically to give teens more access to cultural events. When I was researching my last post, I found TeenTix in Seattle, Washington. It’s an organization where 13 to 19 year olds can get “a free pass that gets you in to movies, music, theatre, dance, visual art, and more for just $5.” The range of events you can go to is really impressive. My family is actually going on a trip to Seattle soon and the EMP Museum looks absolutely incredible but was going to be over $100 for my family of four to visit. Amazingly, my brother and I can both get TeenTix (you don’t have to be from Washington) and get $5 admission. On Thursdays you can also bring someone with you for $5, so now my whole family will be visiting for $20, save an exhibit upcharge. This is a great deal and a great program that I hope residents take full advantage of by seeing lots of theatre and going to lots of museums!

Kids and Family

In my previous post I mentioned that some libraries provide family museum passes which is an awesome resource. Chicago , Miami-Dade county, and Seattle were what I came across, but I’d encourage looking up your own city or county library system as well.

If there is a single museum or aquarium your family really likes to visit, definitely consider a membership or annual pass. In many cases these cost a little more than just two trips. Keep an eye out for summer deals, too; the Glazer Children’s Museum, for example, offers an unlimited admission package for the summer months that is only $49. For just one visit, tickets for a family of four usually come out to $49, but this is unlimited membership!

And again, NARM is often included when you purchase a family-level membership.

Other Discounts

Bank of America cardholders get free admission on the first weekend of the month at lots of institutions.

Groupon sometimes has museum admission; I more often see zoo or aquarium deals. My family once went to a special nighttime event at a zoo for half-price with Groupon tickets.

Look for discount days at your favorite museums. Many have deals such as free admission one Friday a month, $5 on Mondays, etc. This is how I went to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg; they have $10 admission when open late on Thursdays. Free Museum Day is a site that will show you similar deals for some cities.

At the Very Least…

Visit free museums! While some cities are known for having lots of free institutions, like Washington DC, and others have many just by virtue of being packed with museums, like New York City, others may require some digging. I could not find a singular list of all free museums, but a google search for “[your city or state] + free museums” will reveal some. Many museums may be free thanks to sponsors, only charge donations, or are public because they’re affiliated with a university.


There are lots of great art and history museums, science centers, aquariums, and more to see! Find some local deals or get a reciprocal museum pass and go check them out!





Museum Accessibility

From Princess Ennigaldi-Nanna’s curated artifacts in her palace home to the wunderkammer tradition of Renaissance, museums historically began as private collections. While museums today state a mission of public education, they still sometimes fall short on accessibility. For many people, barriers such as expensive admission, lack of information, or physical ability stand in the way of visiting these institutions. I absolutely love museums, and for everyone to be able to experience them and love them as I do, we must create more programs to expand accessibility.

Cool Culture was established to help give the 50% of kids in New York City who come from low-income families access to the wide range of museums from an early age. They provide 50,000 families a year with free admission to ninety cultural institutions. Through the program, Title 1 schools in the city can give preschool and kindergarten students a Family Pass and have a staff member go through workshops to learn how best to implement the program. Families in Chicago, Illinois and Miami-Dade County in Florida, can also check out museum passes from the public library, giving free access to lots of museums in multiple disciplines. While Cool Culture is a nonprofit and the libraries are public institutions, both are helping families visit more museums and enrich their children’s education.

Notably, the Canada Council for the Arts  recently began subsidizing cultural institutions to provide free admission to Syrian refugees, and special activities seek to get children involved. This not only expands access, it is an excellent program in that it targets a group who lacks information and helps them connect to their new community during a time of immense change and difficult assimilation.

Museums themselves can also take action to make visits attainable. For example, the Boston Museum of Science gives free admission to EBT and WIC cardholders, as well as nonprofit organizations. Other museums may do discounted days once a month. Museums that do not charge admission can consider creating partnerships to pay for field trip transportation from schools in underserved communities, or uild mobile science labs.

For some people, the museum environment itself can be a barrier. Children with autism may find it over-stimulating, but special sensory-friendly programs where the building is open early, quieter, and dimmer can provide an inclusive and comfortable experience. Additionally, all institutions should ensure that wheelchairs can easily access all reaches of the facility, create Braille guides, and seek out other accommodations to develop. Perhaps more museums could even invest in the technology of telepresence robots, a new development which can allow people remote access to museum collections. This is a resource that Henry Evans, creator of Robots for Humanity, says “will be the next great democratization of culture.”

I love museums, and I want everyone to be able to benefit from the magic that is having science, history, and art become interesting and personal and alive before your own eyes. To do so, museums need to constantly evaluate what barriers stand in the way of potential guests experiencing that magic, and create solutions to provide access.


(This post is based on an essay I wrote for an application, with some changes, as well as sources and links added.)

Ways of Seeing: Cameras in Museums

Part I: Looking


Recently I read an article, The Renwick is suddenly Instagram famous. But what about the art? detailing the #RenwickGallery‘s “Photography Encouraged” policy and the plethora of pictures posted from inside the gallery. (Seriously, click that link and check out the Instagram tag- it’s beautiful and bountiful, currently at 61,000 posts) The article goes into the record-shattering attendance of the Renwick since reopening, niche crowds on Instagram, and the trends within photos taken there. It also questions what camera use, and especially social media posting, means for museums.

Yes, they’re coming to see the art — but more important, they are coming to photograph, and be photographed with, the art. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which they care about more.

… For many folks, “part of their purpose is they want to show other people what they’re doing,” Henkel says. If that’s what they want, “the photo is a trophy. Their experience is not a very rich experience then.”

Firstly, it can be worrying that visitors prioritize recording the art, or using it as a prop for the aesthetic of their web presence, over truly physically experiencing the art. Are they really appreciating the art itself? In one study posted in the journal Psychological Science, research concluded that museum visitors had worse memory for details when they took pictures of objects. They explain this as the “photo-taking impairment effect” which essentially is reminiscent of how we, for example,  Google some fact before putting real effort into recalling it. We rely on the tech for our memories.

People are also bothered by the notion of taking selfies in museums. Various articles assert the narcissism of millennials, trappings of performative social media, or simple annoyance. One recent piece noted of a new Yayoi Kusama exhibit, If you take a selfie at this Hirshhorn show, you’re part of the problem.

But who are you to judge how someone else is experiencing art? Some cite congestion, obnoxious posing, and disrespecting or not experiencing the art as reasons not to take photos. But really, short of the throngs of tourists in front of say, the Mona Lisa, generally someone else’s photography habit shouldn’t impose on your visit. Who are you to judge if someone wants to spend their allotted time within an iconic and incredible Infinity Room taking a sweet selfie to remember it, or yes, to look cool? Who are you to stop friends from snapping photos of themselves stylishly standing with a fine art backdrop?

Again from the Renwick article:

Far from finding the picture-taking disruptive, [Bell] says, “I think that for different visitors, they’ll find their own ways to engage most intimately with the exhibition. For some people, that will be to not take photographs, and for some people, that will be to take photographs. I don’t think that we should judge.”

Museum professionals should be thrilled that new demographics are entering the space, that people are spreading excitement online, and that there are new ways to experience the museum drew those who may have felt less interested or not qualified to visit before. We should be happy to make museums a more welcoming, encouraging, place to visit.

That said, if a museum wants to restrict photography to save art from deterioration, protect intellectual property, or simply wants to ensure a traditionally reflective environment, by all means they should. If so, perhaps  they can  encourage  sketching as a means of promoting experiencing art fully rather than superficially, as well as furthering development of skills. Personally, I would also say that museums with no photography policies may want to have some iconic piece outside- whether it’s the museum’s sign, a large sculpture, or contemporary art installation- that visitors can photograph in order to satiate their need to record the experience for posterity or profile worthy proof. It’s fun, and will still spread word of your institution on social media.


Part II: Looking at Looking

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The online exposure for the Renwick has introduced whole new crowds to contemporary art and drawn more visitors. Throughout this growing popularity, and museum photography in general recently, a trend has emerged online: posting photos not just of art, but of you looking at art. Check out Instagram accounts like artwatchers_united or girlsinmuseums… it’s everywhere.

So what does the trend suggest? Firstly, assertions that young people dislike museums and prefer discovering art through online channels rather than physical visits are not necessarily looking at the full picture. It is true that millennials spend a lot of time online and will find art this way- but people aren’t trying to move completely to the digital realm. This new trend of museums photos suggests that going to museums offers something unique; something makes a picture of a viewer more interesting than just the art object.

Essentially, we’re expanding experiencing museums to the digital realm. What I mean is this: the trend is romanticizing visiting or emphasizing entering the aesthetic space over simply looking at art, and Instagram accounts that show the art through the viewer insert us into that space along with them. I also think it actually shows an increased respect for works of art, because rather than just seeing the piece, there is a sense of veneration and interest from the subject.

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And this isn’t replacing going to the physical museum necessarily, but providing more insight into places people may not be able to go. For instance, seeing a photo of someone at the Orlando Museum of Art, might let me know about the new exhibit there, and I will go because I live near there. But seeing people in the Renwick Gallery, or the Broad Museum, or any other institution in a far off city, lets me know about and peek into exhibits I can’t visit.


So I say go to the museum if you can. Take photos of the art- and of the artist’s statements to refer to later. Take selfies and pose with your friends. Be thoughtful and reflective. Be trendy and stylish. And… follow me on Instagram.


Head of a Tyrant

I first learned about the deuterocanonical tale of Judith and Holofernes when doing some extra reading for my AP Art History class in high school. Artemesia Gentileschi’s depiction of the story is the first one I saw, and I quickly became obsessed with the figure. It was especially fascinating because being in AP Art History at the time, I was just truly uncovering the way the long story of humanity’s artistic expression is one filled with recurring tropes, iconic figures, and cycles of action and reaction. With Judith, I saw a heroine who had been recreated over and over, and whose meaning changed over time.

The story, in brief:

  • Holofernes is an Assyrian general who is going to destroy the city of Bethulia. 
  • Judith is a devoted Jewish woman and a beautiful widow.
  • She infiltrates Holoferne’s camp with her maid. She charms him, earns his trust.
  • After a banquet, she is alone with a drunk Holofernes in his tent.

You can read a more detailed version here.


By Caravaggio, 1599 (via Wikipedia)

There are tons of depictions of this story varying in style and subject, with Judith holding the head, her maid displaying it on a platter, or in the act of cutting Holofernes’ head off. Caravaggio’s version, above, may be most recognizable. Here Judith is in the middle of the act, blood spurting as her sword slices; yet, the gentle widow in white does not appear to be under much strain physically or emotionally. This is different in Artemesia Gentileschi’s depiction of the scene, below, where you can see that the decapitation is a laborious act; her maid is assisting in the task, and Holofernes is struggling. The other interesting aspect of this painting is that it may be self-insertion. Artemesia appears to have depicted herself as Judith. Holofernes is modeled on Agostino Tassi, her artistic mentor and her rapist. In 1612, Tassi was brought to court for the assault and after months was found guilty but hardly punished, even though other crimes were discovered during the trial. Artemesia suffered even more trauma throughout the case from humiliation to physical torture. Her paintings often show heroines, dramatic conflict, or exhibiting intense emotion. (See also: her painting of Susanna and the Elders which strays from the typical flirting woman, and which x-rays have revealed may have initially been even more extreme.)


Judith Slaying Holofernes (Uffizi Version) by Artesmsia Gentileschi, 1620 (via Wikipedia)

Here are some more of my favorite pieces showing Judith beheading Holofernes, from the sixteenth to twenty-first century.

Left: Donatello, 1460. Commissioned by the Medici family and symbolic of Florence’s triumph against tyranny, very similar to depictions of David and Goliath. 

Right: Botticelli chose to illustrate Judith’s triumphant return home to Bethulia.


Left: Barthel Beham‘s odd posing decision in the 1525 engraving, Judith Seated on the Body of Holofernes. This one seems strange; as this thesis puts it,”Neither the textual nor the visual traditions explain Beham’s choice to perch the chaste woman on top of her slain enemy, so what sources inspired the printmaker?”

Right: The heroically disrespectful stance in Giorgione‘s 1504 oil painting.


kehinde“Judith and Holofernes” (2012) © Kehinde Wiley

This version by Kehinde Wiley is a modern use of the story of heroine and tyrant. Wiley’s vibrant style is amazing; I’d encourage reading this article about him and looking through his work.


Here is her place setting in Judy Chicago’s 1970s massive feminist work, The Dinner Party, which I saw last year while at the Brooklyn Museum.


I noticed these two near each other during a field trip to the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. The left is by Fede Galiza, 1596; the right, by fellow Italian Francesco del Cairo, 1635.


Judith is a symbol of the underdog, of the overlooked, of the Power of Women, appropriated as a feminist icon, and a vision of triumph. Whether depicted as ambivalent or fearless, seductive or desexualized, feminine or doing arduous masculine work, illustrated in Renaissance or contemporary style… Judith is bold, and my favorite figure to spot in museums.

From Judith’s Song of Victory, in chapter 16 of the Book of Judith

4 He boasted that he would burn up my territory,
and kill my young men with the sword,
and dash my infants to the ground,
and seize my children as booty,
and take my virgins as spoil.
5 But the Lord Almighty has foiled them
by the hand of a woman.
7 For she put away her widow’s clothing
to exalt the oppressed in Israel.
She anointed her face with perfume;
8 she fastened her hair with a tiara
and put on a linen gown to beguile him.
9 Her sandal ravished his eyes,
her beauty captivated his mind,
and the sword severed his neck!

Washington D.C.

I just found out I was accepted into an internship program for the fall and will be leaving Orlando for the nation’s capitol! I’m totally thrilled for the opportunity, and it’s going to be an exciting and anxious summer planning everything. I’ll be working with an advisor to be placed at an internship site, and probably won’t disclose where that is but will definitely be posting all about my museum sightseeing and city experiences.

In summer 2014 I visited Washington D.C. with my family and absolutely loved the city but wasn’t able to see everything in a short trip; it’s going to be amazing to have a whole semester to explore.

Here are some shots from my 2014 trip:




See you in the fall, DC!