I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to go on a Museum Hack tour of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Just a bit of background on me before I get into my review: I don’t normally go to museums. I don’t MIND going to them, but it’s usually not on my list of things I choose to do. I’ve mostly gone on school trips or when friends have decided they want to go. It’s especially better when it is cost friendly to explore the museum and there are things you can interact with.
When this opportunity came up, I decided to give it a shot. I thought “What’s the worst that can happen?, the tours sound awesome, they might change my mind about museums!” There were two different options I could choose: I could either go on their “Un-Highlights Tour” (a “high-energy, two-hour group tour through historic halls with a “tasting menu” approach as you learn the crazy true stories behind a selection of art across the National Gallery of Art’s collection”, according to their site) OR their “bad-a** b*****es” tour (which talks about the misrepresentation of females in the art world). Based on my schedule and that the tour was specifically recommended for “people who don’t like museums,” I decided to try out the “Un-Highlights Tour.”
What a great decision that was!
I received a text message the day of the tour as a reminder of where we were supposed to meet. I was able to quickly respond while on the Metro and explain that I’m not as familiar with DC so I’m behind schedule and a bit lost. They were a big help in finding my way to our meeting point, gave me a minute for a potty break (TMI, but whatever) and just were overall very accommodating.
The first thing we did as a big group was that we went over the typical rules of the museum and how the tour will be run. Caroline was the one who introduced the tour and she was able to make the rules and run-down very entertaining. We did one of those chants where everyone puts their hands in and (quietly since we were in a museum) said “Mu-seums!” It was a great way to get the group’s attention and create a sense of unity.
Then we split up the groups, to my surprise. I didn’t realize the tour groups were going to be small! I’m assuming the other half of the group was for a specific party because they were called “Team Sandy” and said you’d know if you were on that team. Well, since I obviously didn’t know, I was on the other team. That team went with Caroline, while we went with Hannah. Hannah promised us a great tour (and a great tour she gave, but more on that later!)
We started off with an introduction of the museum and how it came to be. Now, I’ve been to the National Gallery of Art before (with my college, with family, etc) but I don’t think I was ever even told the basics of how the USA ended up having an art museum in Washington, DC! That was a strong beginning for the tour.
Hannah was EXTREMELY knowledgeable about the art and the museum. She was able to walk us around with ease and had an exact plan of where she wanted to go, as well as what activities we’d be doing. Activities?! Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that! We had introductions, as well as “team-building” games that helped us bond as a group. I didn’t think I’d really communicate with anyone in the group and assumed I’d just be walking around, looking at paintings. There were only six of us in the group (including Hannah the tour guide), which helped me feel connected and learn as a team.
We probably discussed 10-12 different pieces (both paintings and sculptures) over the course of two hours. Believe me when I say that the tour did NOT feel like two hours AT ALL. I wanted it to keep going! Someone on the tour even said while we were in the elevator that they hoped it got stuck so we’d be able to swap stories for hours longer! Hannah kept the tour extremely riveting and talked to us as if we were all friends. Her passion and love for the museum and for art really shined through her words and actions.
I had a blast on this tour and learned a lot of new information- and took a TON of notes! Here are just a few tidbits I learned- Did you know there was a lesbian queen with a mistress in Sweden who is buried at the Vatican? How about the conspiracy theory between “The Little Mermaid” and one of George De La Tour’s candlelight paintings? Or that there’s an original Degas sculpture at the National Gallery of Art made with real human hair, linen and other items called The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years? I’m not going to give you everything I learned- you’ll just have to go on your own tour to find out more!
These tours are not just available in Washington, DC either. There are tours all over the place- New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. You’re sure to find a tour close to your area that you’ll enjoy!
If you’re interested in taking this tour yourself, go to www.museumhack.com and be sure to sign up for their newsletter for all the latest information and potential discounts! I HIGHLY recommend it! I want to take it again in all the different places!
Let me know what you think in the comments below! Have you ever been on a Museum Hack tour? If not, would you like to sometime?