I have been a museum lover all my life. Walking through the doorsand waiting to see what’s inside, whether it’s my first time there or my 50th, is always a rush. I love all types of museums: small, large, history, science, art. No matter where I am,if I can make it to a museum I feel like I’m home.

Whether it’s the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the British Museum in London, or the Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum, they all have something to offer, some new knowledge or perspective you have yet to experience. So, over the years I have established a plan to explore and enjoy museums. Now, this isn’t a hard schedule or set of rules, it’s more about realizing what moments really make these visits special to me, and then focusing on them.

The first thing I do is to prepare for the visit by looking the museum up online. This obviously isn’t necessary, and for impromptu visits I don’t obsess about this step. However, usually I like to have a feel for the place before I go there. It’s helpful to know not only how much it will cost and where it is, but also if there are special exhibits or presentations that I want to see. I like knowing if there are any specific artifacts or exhibits I am interested in, so I can allow ample time to enjoy them. One of the worst things for me is going to a museum, spending hours walking around, and then finding the most interesting part right when I have to leave. This is especially tragic when I am traveling and know I won’t be able to come back and see it for a very long time. So having a plan ahead of time is fairly important to me.

Now for the fun part- actually going to the museum. I know there are all sorts of different people out there, and everyone experiences museums in a different way. I am what people call a reader, which means an exhibit that could take another person 5 minutes to peruse through can take me an hour because I have to read every little plaque and description. Because of this, I make sure to leave time for me to read to my heart’s content, which requires a bit more preparation than the casual visitor.

However, I know this isn’t the way everyone likes to see exhibits. I think the most important part of a visit is just to experience it in your own way. If you like to skip around and only look at certain items, do it! Most museums just want you to enjoy yourself and maybe learn something along the way, so do it your way.

Whether you like guided tours, or audio tours, or just browsing by yourself, there’s really no wrong way to visit a museum. The only big mistake you can make is not going in with an open mind. You never know what you’ll find at a museum, and it could surprise you. It’s ok to go in with some expectations about what you’ll see, but if it turns out to be something completely different, just go with it and try to enjoy the new, unexpected experience. Being flexible can make all the difference.