Working people can still enjoy museum visits on weekends


August 14, 1994|By Susan Hipsley | Susan Hipsley,Special to The Sun

In terms of a leisure-time commitment, museums are a daunting proposition for many people. "I'd go there, but there's so much to see and I have so little time," goes the guilt-laden lament.

But museums, eager to keep regular visitors whose lifestyles may have changed as well as to attract new visitors, have made some time-sensitive adjustments of late.

Most notably, gallery hours have been altered to accommodate working people's schedules. While the Baltimore Museum of Art no longer has evening hours due to city budget cuts, says Alison Cahen, public relations associate for the museum, it is open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., so working people can attend. "We would like to better serve working people. But right now, we're looking at our hours in the long term."

If and when the BMA further adjusts its hours, it will join museums with fatter operating-cost budgets that report weeknight and extended weekend hours are a big success. For example, the Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the country's best-endowed art museums, recently extended its summer evening hours through August. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is now open Friday and Saturday evenings until 8:45 p.m., in addition to regular museum hours -- a benefit for city residents as well as out-of-towners trying to maximize a weekend visit.

Also, as an unintended but nevertheless serendipitous by-product of lean budgets, special exhibitions are smaller, more focused -- and therefore more manageable from a time-investment perspective.

"In the '80s, museums were doing a lot of blockbusters," says Ms. Cahen of the BMA. For museums, they were expensive to mount and took years to put together. For museum goers, they were fulfilling, but they also were leisure-time gobblers. "People had to wait to get their tickets, wait in line to get in, and then the galleries were so crowded they had to wait to view the artworks. They took hours to see," recalls Ms. Cahen.

Now, visitors to the BMA's Matisse cutouts show can reap a satisfying, edifying experience in 30 minutes to an hour, estimates Ms. Cahen, adding that those with more time can certainly find hours of enjoyment studying the 30 works in the show. "The label text has succinct information, but visitors come away from the exhibition learning a great deal about his work."

In fact, museum professionals stress that exhibitions are designed to be scholarly and budget-conscious, rather than time-sensitive. Viewing time is not a consideration when curators put together shows, says Elise Topalian, deputy chief communications officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. "They are working on a particular thesis."

However unconscious a curator may be of how long it takes to absorb an exhibition's thesis, time-pinched visitors are grateful for a tightly edited show. Leaving the current "Picasso and the Weeping Women: The Years of Marie-Therese Walter and Dora Maar" show at the Met, one obviously relieved man remarked to his companion, "That wasn't so bad. We still have time for lunch."


"Two technological innovations have changed my professional life, making it easier for me to save time and be efficient. Voice mail saves me time because customers and colleagues can leave a detailed message. Then I can prepare the information they need before I call them back. That saves making several calls when one will do. And my car phone allows me to stay in touch with my customers because I'm in and out of the office so much. These are significant enhancements in how I work."

-- Peg Moulton,

vice president, Signet bank


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