In which the kids are fine, shut up

A note, before I start: I had to do research and learn what the hell the difference is between Holland, the Netherlands and Denmark before writing this post.  So obviously I am supposed to be writing right now.

Anyway.  This picture’s making the rounds:

tumblr_ngp1r0FJEa1qz6f9yo1_1280Here’s what you’re supposed to do: you’re supposed to look at this picture and go arr wharglebargle kids these days yarr, and be all mad.  In case you don’t recognize it, that painting on the wall back there is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, which isn’t actually called that officially but whatever.  The idea is that these kids– who look, to my eyes, to be maybe eighth- or ninth-graders, are in the presence of Priceless! Artwork! and instead of reverently gazing upon it they are daring to look at their phones.  Horror!  Terror! Decline of society!  Wharrgarbl!  Facebook is so angry about this, guys.

tl;dr version of this post:  Oh shut up.

Longer version:  Have you ever been in an art museum?  I have. I’m terribly fond of the Art Institute of Chicago, for starters, and have been in several others.  Do you happen to know what art museums are?  They’re exhausting.  Even if you’re grown, and you’re interested in art, they’re exhausting.  It is entirely possible– I have done this!– to be a grown, educated adult who is interested in art and accidentally walk right past, oh, incredibly famous works of pointillist art that you’ve seen in a million places before and not even realize it because that is what art museums do to your brain.  I have done this!  It had to be pointed out to me that I was in the same room as that painting.  And that painting is huge!  It’s literally ten goddamn feet wide and I missed it.

So, yeah.  First thing, then: Art museums are exhausting and those seats are there for a reason.  So shut up.  They are more exhausting when you’re fourteen.

Second thing: These kids are already almost certainly European– the museum is, after all, in Amsterdam– which means, as I consult my list of stereotypes, that they’re already smarter and more educated and Worldly than American kids anyway, and using a picture of some European kids to go arr wharglebargle blarg America RUINT!!!1!11!! is an especially obnoxiously American way to look at a picture.  I guarantee a good 2/3 of the people complaining are convinced they’re looking at American kids.

Third thing: Here’s the room this painting is in at the Rijksmuseum:

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 7.29.53 AMYou will note that they have provided quite a lot of seating space in this room.  It’s almost as if you’re expected to want to sit down at some point.  Here’s the same room from a slightly different angle, with people in it:

dsc02121

Note the old man on the right, sitting in nearly the same place the kids are and– argbjarglewharkleflarken!– checking his phone!

To continue the theme of Pictures, here’s a floor plan of the Rijksmuseum:

big_409117_5652_plan216

You can click on this to make it larger if you want; just know that the Night Watch is in the circled part at the top– and that the entrance to the museum is at the bottom.  In other words, the painting is specifically and deliberately put in a place where you have to walk through most of the museum to get to it.  So unless you proceed directly there immediately, you will have already Seen a Lot of Art by the time you get to the Night Watch room.

Here’s the thing: I have, on numerous occasions, taken fairly large groups of 7th and 8th graders on field trips to cultural destinations.  Long field trips.   Four day field trips.  So I have a passing acquaintance with how kids behave on these types of things.  Now, it is most likely that these particular kids are Hollish teenagers on a day trip of some sort, but it’s entirely possible that they’re from somewhere else and on a longer trip– and that, in other words, they’re probably exhausted by now.  Even if this museum is ten minutes from their homes, they’re still probably tired by now.

Do you know what you do when you’re taking students to a museum?  You let them go, and you tell them “We’re meeting in XXX place at XXX time.”  You do not try and keep a big group of kids together for the entire time you’re in the museum.  It doesn’t work.  If possible, you break them into smaller groups and put each of them with a chaperone, but there’s generally nothing wrong with just letting them go.  I’ve been doing this for years, literally, and have never had my kids get into any sort of bullshit while out in public.  Sometimes they get a little loud.  That’s it.

In other words: 1) There’s nothing wrong with sitting down in a museum; that museums, in fact, provide furniture for sitting, even in rooms with priceless works of art that one is expected to gaze reverently at for some length of time that an otherwise uninvolved denizen of the interwebs might deem appropriate;  2) It’s entirely possible that they’re sitting down because this is where they’re meeting everyone; 3) It’s also entirely possible– in fact, likely– that what a bunch of them are doing is showing each other pictures that they’ve taken during the trip, because not all of the museum is going to be a no-photography zone, and 4) stop being so judgy, asshole.

Lecture ends.  I should probably do some work now.


I’ve gotten a heads-up that this post is about to get a bit more attention than usual, so forgive me for this, but: Hi!  I’m Luther Siler.  There is a lot more blog where this post came from, and you can find me on Twitter at @nfinitefreetime.  I also write books about space gnomes and voyages to Mars that people have claimed to find amusing.  You might too!  Thanks for reading!

187 thoughts on “In which the kids are fine, shut up

    1. I do. I actually find that interpretation a bit unlikely, believe it or not, so I didn’t mention it. One girl appears to be using earbuds, but they’re clearly all talking and conversing and showing each other things, and not in a way that says “using the museum app” to me. I could be wrong, of course.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. I agree with Ray. A few of the kids have a piece of paper in their laps. My guess is that they are looking for information to fill out the sheet. At least, that is what I would have my students doing. Most schools trips I have been on or observed in Europe have hoards of kids flood into a museum with work to do. They don’t stand passively and wander hoping to be inspired. They usually have a worksheet, a workbook, a sketch pad, and a phone in hand.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. me2…having been involved in the lives of 3 great girls i’d rather believe they are comparing notes for a test…when I was their age field trips included all kids…nowadays more schools offer these adventures as rewards to kids who behave and make good grades, etc…so, sure they may be doing fb or whatever…but it’s just as likely they are behaving

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Take my pups to museums, artsy places, and even music festivals. (I stay away from zoos – they make me uneasy.) My primary rule in exposing my young ones to these mind expanding things is to answer questions, but never tell them what to look for. Don’t tell them what to think if you want them to think for themselves.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Oh, if only all the world would do their own critical thinking! I so detest the memes and pics on the internet that depict a fraction of a second in time and are purported to portray a whole array of evils. There are so many explanations for so many things and if we would all adapt the old adage “walk a mile in someone elses shoes” we would have far more understanding and far less judgement. Thank you for your wonderful post. Hopefully it will open eyes to the idea of trying to understand rather than trying to judge.

    Liked by 8 people

  3. I find the picture amusing but not particularly concerning 🙂
    Mostly I just wanted to commend you on your research efforts for this post. I mean, you got the freaking floor plan for the actual museum! Gold stars for you.

    Liked by 16 people

    1. I agree! The evidence you provided to prove your point was more in depth than I may have went. 🙂 But it’s good. The seating area pictured is a great place to meet up after the full tour. Against my our wishes, I do grown numb after looking at art or exhibitions for a long period of time. I don’t think the photo adequately tells the story of what is actually happening in the photo.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed they were. If I were less tired, I’d find the quotes to back you up. I’ll point out for now that I recall reading also that there were worries that books would supplant the oral tradition. How telling that people say such similar things now about digital devices curbing proper enthusiasm for print.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mike

        Not only that, but there were even some chastising those who were complaining about “The Youth of Today.” I’m pretty sure Seneca does this somewhere in his letters to Lucilius.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. NotAPunkRocker

    Someone else already beat me to it, but M more than once would be looking up more info on an artist or work.

    Darn kids and smartphones. All those Chihuly pictures he took, when he should have been saying “hmmmm” instead. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  5. This is one of those I saw did all the engagement thingys with but filed away for later, so I just now read it. I see why it is a winner. Because you are right about art museums, and about kids, and about not being such judgy assholes.

    I am a fan of the not-quite-aptly-named New York Musuem of Modern Art, myself. Their medieval armor gallery is to die for, and they have huge triumphalist paintings of Napolean. And an Egyptian temple. And a glass wall with a view of central park. And all kinds of crazy religious art from the dark ages. And ancient coins and other bronze artifacts. And Monet first drafts. And MINOAN SPHINXES that are some of the most human non-realistic sculptures I have ever seen, that you just have to stare at for 15 minutes and wonder who the model was all those thousands of years ago.

    So yeah. Get what you’re saying. Exhausting.

    Probably what those kids are doing is making sure they are in the right place for the meetup, and texting the ones who haven’t shown up yet to see where they are. I have a bit of experience with this sort of thing, too, though not nearly as much as you. Kids know when it’s time to be good, and they tend to stick together when the chips are down.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. A bang-on post. I love museums but they can be exhausting. Unfortunately jumping to negative conclusions about others based on seeing a small piece of the big picture is something we’ve all done from time to time.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Well done! Poo poo on folks saying how anyone should enjoy a museum. I’m often on my phone searching info about the art or artists because I know squat about art. Who’s to say those kids weren’t doing the same, and what does it matter anyway? They are there. They will take something away. That’s what it’s all about.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. As an adult of a certain age (middle age) who spends a lot of time with teens – AMEN. How I hate it when others start to spew crap out modern kids. I find the teens so much more informed and interesting than the teens of the 1970’s (back when I was one.) I love being with teens and that includes taking them to art museums. Of course there are always a few stinkers – but they don’t get asked to go with us again.
    Great article.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. This post uses too much logic. I prefer to jump to my own conclusions! Thanks for pointing out that things may not be as they seem. I know quite a few people who need this lesson. I too teach and taking this age group anywhere can be risky. I like to think they are doing as they are supposed to be doing… i.e. one of the many option you provided.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. jmchristensen

    Anyone who thinks they sound sophisticated and tastefully provocative when they complain about “kids these days” are only just honoring the age-old tradition of being a crotchety old fart.

    “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book.”
    -Cicero, 43 B.C.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. At least you had the balls to say it out loud, that our snobby world will pass judgment so quickly on something we know nothing. These kids might have just spent quite a while touring the musee and viewing that lug of a painting. It is lovely but I will give them a pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The contrast is sharp and thought provoking. Addiction to gadgets is becoming a global phenomenon it’s long term impact appears quite bleak 😦

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  13. Refreshing! As a parent of digital natives, including one with Aspergers, I find that they are in fact far more social than I ever was at their age. More often than not, technology facilitates that. There are upsides and downsides of course. But it’s great to be taken through such a logical step back from the knee-jerk “OMG, isn’t social media terrible”.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Haha. You even confirmed yet another stereotype in your very first paragraph, that you had to look up the difference between Holland, the Netherlands and DENMARK. Oh man. It’s the American education we should be most worried about.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. A French exchange student with no English meets two Americans, and asks for directions 10 different languages. Unable to communicate, he leaves, frustrated. The first American says to the second American, “Wow, maybe we should learn another language.” The second American responds, “Why? Didn’t do him any good.”

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I think its sad that this gereration is more on their phones and social media than taking in their surroundings. I would love to go to one of these places and be in ore if its natural beauty and tallent

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t think the point is to criticize THESE kids, in particular, but the point rather is that this particular photo represents a social issue or problem that does seem to exist. That’s sort of the point of art and photography, you see. And to take it further, it’s quite intriguing with the juxtaposition of the oblivious children with THAT particular painting in the background. The Night Watch, you see? Vigilantly standing guard. Brilliant, eh?

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  17. meddleman

    Isn’t it also possible that these kids are looking up answers to questions they’ve either been assigned as part of this trip and/or questions they’ve themselves thought of while walking around the museam viewing all of this priceless art? I think it is equally as important to note that these kids do have minds of their own and just because they are all on their phones doesn’t necessarily mean that they are updating their facebook statuses, tweeting, or on any other form of social media. If you aren’t standing over their shoulder watching what they are doing, you should never assume that it has to be a mindless waste of time because they have their noses to a phone. What would have been said about this if they had all been holding books? Today’s technology, electronic devices, puts a wealth of knowledge and information at our fingertips and we just so happen to be able to carry it in our back pockets, or bra, or purse, whatever your preference may be…. It’s way more practical than lugging around a set of encyclopedias!!

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  18. An Art museum for me is a fun place to be but I have to agree I’ll be exahusted if I have to remember or recognise them or constantly stare at a painting.If the works appeal to me then I remember them.Poor kids must be playing the latest game.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Jogging through porridge

    Reblogged this on Violet Sparks and commented:
    I love Art, I love Art Museums but like this guy says they are exhausting! You aren’t gonna walk into every room of the museum and be fascinated / in awe of / be interested in EVERY single piece in there, and it’s nice to take 5 and sit and relax, checking your phone (if you so wish) and just enjoy the museum, I’ve seen people reading books whilst taking 5, how is that any different to checking a phone? It isn’t you can sit, take 5, check your phone / read your book, and soak up the atmosphere. Museums are to be explored, wondered around at leisure and sat in, not rushed through room to room in an hour. x

    Like

  20. I had the reaction you said I would have. ‘You rotten brats!’ Yay me. I’m typical. But do you know what? I didn’t give a shit about art when I was that age, either. That’s an adult appreciation. (Unless you’ve got an insufferable precocious waif on your hands, God forbid.) Thanks for talking me down off the window ledge.

    You’re correct about art museums. They suck the life out of you, but they’re worth the trouble. On Tuesday, I saw a big Cubism exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Afterwards, I needed a nice, long nap. It felt like someone punched me in the eyes.

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  21. Exactly! The picture nicely supports the current idea that phones and general screen addiction is going to ruin civilisation as we know it.It’s a lucky shot and it can be spun into some great fb memes. But how lucky is the shot, really?
    Any group of people taking 5 minutes out to chill (from a meeting, an exhibition, a class, a concert , whatever are going to pull their phones out. all of them; or nearly all of them. So while I might not agree that this is the END of civilisation as we know it, we have to start accepting that this is the beginning of a new civilisation as we are coming to know it.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I backpacked through Europe in my twenties and thought I would never ever ever get tired of looking at great art. I ended up wandering around the Louvre in a guilt ridden daze, wishing I could go eat a crepe with nutella and come back tomorrow (for free). Overwhelming. Not even an eighth-grader.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Thank you! There are so many of these pictures built to work people into a frenzy, when really there’s nothing to be upset about. I wish people would learn to just let kids be kids and stop being so judgmental (of everyone).

    Like

  24. I remember those kind of trips to be quite exhausting, indeed. AND they do always keep the main pieces at the ends of museums. Basterds.
    But you’re completely right: we can’t judge all teens based on a picture of a few in a museum, when there’s no information about the circumstances in which that pic was taken.

    Oh, and btw I’m from the Netherlands. I get that the whole Holland-the Netherlands thing is confusing (it confused me) and yes, I get that most people mix us up with Germany, but Denmark? :p That one is new. Anyway, just kidding 😉
    Great article!

    Like

        1. The explanation I know is that in the old days, there were settlers in America from the Netherlands and from Germany. They both spoke similar (maybe same?) language and due to some confusion among the English settlers as to who’s who, the Deutsch (=German) name stuck somehow with the Netherlands, eventually transforming into Dutch.

          Liked by 1 person

  25. Roshni

    I definitely loved this post! And I’m going to hang around to check out some more. 🙂 Your reasoning is brilliant. Perfect answer to those people who keep coming up with such nonsense.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Like

  26. What I find extremely intricate about this post is not your research but the fact that you actually researched all this.

    I totally get where you’re coming from with the judgement of those girls; I don’t know why people are all like oh they could be using some app or oh they could be doing something educational; not that I doubt the intelligence of these girls who are eighth or ninth graders but I am a teenager surrounded by morons who think alike to most of the morons in the western society. I guess you’re right and we should look at this on both sides as this can obviously not be something everyone would agree on. First of all yes they could be looking at something educational or based on the painting; this is highly unlikely because I believe that at least one of them could be looking or even glancing at the picture? But also we have no proof that what they are doing is intellectually stimulating. What this looks like I can tell you right now, it looks like a bunch of girls sharing with one another their social media oohs and aahs. It’s what every teenage girl does these days; at least we’re lucky none of them actually stood next to the picture and took of a selfie of it because that would be retarded and totally conspicuous. We don’t exactly know what they’re doing but even without thinking anyone can say that they are positive that those girls are using instagram or snapchat as most girls they’re age are using these days.

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    1. Have you been to the Rijskmuseum? There are several self-portraits there, painted by some of the greatest names in art history. And right next door, in the Van Gogh museum, there are several ‘selfies’ painted by the Man himself. So even if they made a selfie, they’re stepping into the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest artists.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess that it can mean a different thing and I acknowledge your reply. Sometimes selfies mean certain things; it can mean “I came to this awesome museum” or “I’m standing by this awesome picture” It can mean “I’m standing by ___________ picture” but not everyone is going to type it into a social media message. Trust me I know people are different, of course thee are people who will definitely love to let everyone know what museum it is and what picture; so of course everyone is different but we don’t always know their intentions no matter how vague or conspicuous they seem

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        1. What I’m trying to say is that it there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with making and posting selfies. And perhaps sharing oohs and aahs is exactly what makes us human, its just that we have electronic means of doing that nowadays.

          Liked by 1 person

  27. Night terror news

    People make quick judgements based off of very little iNfo… I think the photo is fine.. I would enjoy seeing it any of them took selfies im front of famous pieces

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  28. This is a truly quality blog. Its do wrll written and engaging. Im jealous of your ability. I totally agree, why are we supposed to be outraged at the way the new generation interacts with the world. Its so cliche of the older generation see any difference in method or mannerism as evidence of moral degredation. You know what I remember my elders acting the same way when we would bust out our gameboys and im sure people who read comic books received the same scorn. Let them be. Its not only justified by your blog its justified by the trends of culture in general. Quality blog my friend. I am truly envious of your skill.

    Like

  29. Loved this post! When I was 17, the best students in my French class took a nine-day fieldtrip to France. I was a straight-A, curious, highly motivated student. But we visited SO MANY museums. And by the time we reached the Louvre and I glimpsed the Mona Lisa, I remember feeling only disappointment and boredom. When my classmates and I did meet up, we chatted about a stranger’s buttocks or Napoleon’s love life. Because we were exhausted. Thanks for telling grownups the facts of life. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  30. nergizd

    I 100% agree with this. Just something to add: the whole concept of going through a whole musuem and devoting 15 seconds of your time to each painting, I think, is preposterous. I usually choose 4 or 5 of my favourites and analyse them for a long time, maybe 15 minutes each. The experience becomes much more mind stimulating then.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Alaina

    I’ve found that many of my peers are much more cultured than the naysayers portray us to be. In fact, it was my peers that introduced me to the opera and the symphony, which I love. And here’s my two cents:

    1) Like you said in the post, these museums can be huge. I speak from personal experience when I say that I needed those chairs and benches during my visits.

    2) It doesn’t matter how cultured or sophisticated a person is. You can’t like/love everything. I’m not too fond of art museums. I see a picture, take a moment or two to appreciate the work that was put into it, and go “Okay, next.” I used to struggle with feeling like a lowborn troglodyte for not passionately loving art like others did. That is until I realized that as long as I appreciate the beauty that’s there and try to understand why others love it so, I’m fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. katherinejlegry

    Actually it’d just be nice if the kids would leave the phones at home and go be in the world. People spend too much time on them. Especially young ones and they are losing social skills and ability to recognize emotions. Science says 90% of you are ruining your eyes due to these phones and now this defense of kids using them. These cultured privileged kids who will soon have the opportunity to learn how they have advanced laser eye surgery creating a greater demand for eye doctors. So much for seeing the painting. LOL!

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  33. The point is not that technology addiction isn’t a problem. The point is, we’re seeing one photo from a small amount of time that one group of kids was in the museum. As the author of the post pointed out, we have no idea how long they spent in the museum looking at paintings before or after this photo was taken. We also have no idea how long they were on their phones or what they were using them for. Technology also allows us to take one photo we know little about the context of and post sweeping condemnations of entire groups of people all over the internet. That’s not a good thing either.

    Like

  34. imateendad

    I hated going to the museum with my school class 😀 but now I like to go! They’ll change or if there just not interested it’s fine who cares?

    Like

  35. I assume the children are American – not because they are on their phones – but because every single one of them pictured is wearing jeans… and most of them are also wearing hoodies. Thanks to folks like Mark Zuckerberg (and maybe Trayvon Martin) this is becoming (if it weren’t already) a dead giveaway in other (especially European) countries, from what I’ve heard, that these tourists are definitely American.

    Sure, kids from other countries wear that same “uniform” sometimes… but none as consistently or reliably as American kids.

    Like

      1. My bad. Clearly, I don’t know enough about the Dutch. I was thinking more about England, Scotland, and France. Of course, how could I forget? You are so right… It must be a generational thing. Even just ten years ago I’d heard jokes from a lot of friends from the countries I mentioned about how wearing jeans was like an american tourist uniform. I don’t think that’s still the case today. I appreciate the correction. I’ll think more globally before I comment next. I’m still new to the blogosphere… Cheers! PS – I find this photo fascinating because I have nieces and nephews who would have done the exact same thing in the same place, and I can’t imagine how I’ll impart the wisdom of reverence for artistic mastery to my children. I fear most artistic mastery will be handled for them by the time they reach my age – all at the touch of button, click of a mouse, or swipe of an eyeball… The photo you posted definitely hits on one of the deepest generational shifts and disconnects that my generation has seen with their kids. We’re finally on the other side of all those, “when I was young the world was that way…” conversations. My own, my sisters, brothers-in-law, and my husband’s minds have been sufficiently blown by this fact and we are still in shock. This photo brings up the intersection: how you teach reverence for the past while respecting the facts of the future for the next generation?

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        1. I disagree that its a generation thing. My mother keeps bugging me to get a smart-phone and my aunt is disappointed I don’t have Facebook and can’t be ‘friends’ with her there. My father-in-law is making his appointments via WhatsApp.

          I think that making an app and adding QR-codes to artwork is a wonderful way to “teach reverence for the past while respecting the facts of the future for the next generation” as you well put it.

          Liked by 1 person

  36. nice post…i was reminded of Jake Chapman’s questions of the time children/youth spend in art exhibitions trying to understand complex works of art…he troubles assumptions made by adults…i always wonder what it means or what it looks like visually to be an educated person in 2015…i feel children’s natural curiosity for learning is always infectious.

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  37. I agree with your post except with conclusion 2. I think it is highly unlikely that that is where they’re meeting everyone, because that is probably the most crowded, noisy place in the whole museum and they’d be clogging it up beyound what it already clogged.

    By the way, its OK to take photos in the Rijskmuseum, as long as you don’t use the flash. And yes, they have free WiFi there. They probably even encourage you to look things up by putting a QR-code next to the paintings, or will be doing it soon.

    Like

  38. Reblogged this on Well That Was Different and commented:
    This post cracked me up. I have been to many great European museums, and you know who may well be sitting in front of the great masterpiece at the end looking at her phone? ME.

    Because I happen to be in the same family with people who read every single word on every single sign beside every single picture, in every single room of the entire freaking museum. Slowly.

    Not only am I a fast reader, but I know what I like and what I don’t like, I don’t much bother with. BTW, I had years of art and art history classes, so I am not entirely uninformed in my opinions.

    And sometimes, museums display bad or downright stupid art. Yep, it’s fact. Ask my son, also a frequent visitor to museums, who, at the age of about 12, described a loaf of French bread painted blue and set on a pedestal as “a big blue turd.” He made this highly accurate assessment after looking at it for about five seconds. Not all art is deserving of our time and attention.

    Anyway, I love art and I love museums. But everyone has to experience them at their own pace and in their own way. Kids and adults, too.

    So, if you see a bunch of teenagers looking at their phones don’t jump to conclusions. And if you see a small woman lugging a big camera, collapsed on a museum bench and looking at her phone, judge at your own peril. She may be checking her Facebook just to stay awake 🙂

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  39. I totally agree. School kids have breaks every so often. Even if they were doing easy work, they have breaks. On school trips, they don’t get breaks. So they found somewhere to sit down and have a rest. I did the same on a college trip to an art gallery. And that was at college. In other words, I had chosen to do art in depth.

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  40. The Canon Journo

    That is a fabulous piece of writing. My Dad hammered about this all the time and you raise some good points. However I would perhaps say that children of all ages should hone the duty of enjoying and appreciating the non digital world as much as the digital world– in this case, appreciate the artwork as much as the phoneography that appears everywhere nowadays. But nonetheless I give you credit for your writing.

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  41. Reblogged this on Sourcerer and commented:
    If you took a break for the holidays, this post was one of the highlights of the last week of December. You’ll want to read it if you missed it the first time around. And it has been Freshly Pressed! I can’t wait for the statwanking from this one. Congrats, Luther!

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  42. Thank you so much for this, I hate all the flak young people get for things like this. Perhaps these kids really enjoyed the museum, and they’re just taking a little break? Or maybe they aren’t that interested, because after all, who says you have to have a deep love for the contents of museums anyway?

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  43. HeyItsHales

    I was amongst a fairly educated group in high school (top-ranking school in the state/country AND in the IB program) and when we went to museums, we’d undoubtably end up on our phones at one point or another. It’s like you said, we’d either be so exhausted we were beyond the point of caring what was in front of us OR we’d be waiting for everyone else to arrive at our designated meeting place. Images are deceptive, which is why it’s unfortunate that people judge them so quickly and easily.

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  44. christanis2014

    Strong but entertaining argumentation. Refreshing to read an adult advocating for the smartphone generation. So basically – great article!

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  45. Ha loved this. I love going to museums and art galleries. But after a few hours it can be tiring. So yes I sit down and wait for it, I get out my phone. There is nothing wrong with it. Yes you are in an environment surrounded by beautiful art etc but that doesn’t mean you have to gawk at it continuously. And no I am not a teenager but a soon to be 40 year old 😉

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  46. I am very proud to say if I was on that field trip I would be one of the few kids in the world (other than my friends of course) who would be gazing in awe at the painting.

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  47. I agree, as a kid walking through museums on these long trips I used to get tierd easy (slightly over weight) and these benches are in front of the art so id sit down and look at it or talk to my friend be side me (also fluffy we travel in pairs) about the next thing on our trip. And im american. When you take a kid to a museum of any age they are gonna be interested for a while but then get tierd of walking or following their guide ( americans maybe sooner than others) but hey give the credit for the kid even being there at all

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  48. As Stephen Fry said “we have escalators and lifts, but we still use stairs” my mother is 83yrs and was given a new phone with larger letters, for ease of use. ” I really do not like this, it hasn’t predictive text! I think a smart phone would be more use”. Why don’t we see this as just another tool, a step forward to add to our tool box. Far too much poo pooing of technology goes on. Let’s not forget rock and roll was the devils noise! Great post.

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  49. ALZamba

    This post came up on my “Freshly Pressed”, and your reaction to the photo made me giggle! 😀

    Yeah, I do worry that people spend way too much time on their phones, which takes them away from taking in their surroundings. But as a commentator said above, yes, they may be learning about the museum with a modern tool. That said, we don’t know, as we are not the one using it.

    I love museums; but yes, they can get exhausting as they are filled with way too much information, hence the seats. The seats are also useful when one wants to sit and gaze at a certain painting. I find them useful when I want to sit with a friend and talk about the said item too.

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  50. Love your attitude 🙂 I personally like to stroll through museums stopping at works that catch my eye, rather than looking at each and every one in detail – you would quickly get tired this way and all you’d want to do is get out and rest. Better really enjoy a few of the artworks and come back to look at some others later, I think.

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  51. I went to England a few years back on a small self-discovery/inspiration trip. While I was there, I had the opportunity to visit the National Art Museum at Trafalgar Square before they started charging admissions. I can most definitely attest to the fact that art museums are very exhausting.
    I think the majority of the art was from around the Renaissance era (I could be horribly wrong, I read no material on any of the works), which is not really my cup of tea either style-wise or in regards to the fact that the majority of people depicted in said paintings are some degree of naked. I couldn’t walk through more than two rooms before I had to sit down and take a breather, and I like to think I’m a fairly fit person.
    I actually found the attached museum of faces (probably not the actual name but that’s what I’m calling it) to be more interesting, but I again had to rest frequently as I walked through it.
    I do not blame these kids in the slightest for sitting and looking at their phones. Besides, who’s to say they didn’t already look reverently at the painting?

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    1. ALZamba

      I live in London, and when I was a kid, the National Art Gallery did charge admissions then. But now they don’t, and they haven’t done so for a while. If they do charge anything, it is for the temporary exhibitions.

      The other museum you probably went to was the National Portrait Gallery, which is right round the corner. Same again, they allow free admission. Many museums and galleries in London too. We need to keep a list of which do charge, and don’t.

      I hope you enjoyed London, and didn’t get too tired with how much there is to see and do! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Was about to make the same point – the national gallery most certainly does not charge an admission fee.

        I do agree with Willow River on one point, though: the Ambassadors aside, the National Portrait gallery is far more interesting.

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  52. I love art but really don’t enjoy galleries at all. I was in Rome recently for a day trip and I didn’t visit any museums At All, instead enjoying walking around the entire city in the sunshine at my own pace.

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  53. ALZamba

    Reblogged this on Taking a Walk Through History and commented:
    Yesterday, I came across this blog on my ‘Freshly Pressed’ Reader page.

    The aspect that attracted me was the picture of kids at an art museum, looking at their smartphones in front a famous painting. This author’s reaction to the photo made me giggle. 😀

    As I said in my comment, I do worry that people spend way too much time on their phones in this day and age, and don’t stop to take in the local surroundings. As I wrote to Jane Austen in my previous post, I said she’d be baffled as to how we all have ‘square eyes’ these days from always looking at a screen. The world has changed so much in the last two centuries; it’s crazy!

    It’s worrying that people (especially children!) are far more interested in their phones, rather than priceless art on the walls. As the debate rages in the comment section of the blog I’ve reblogged, many people argue that perhaps they are learning about the paintings on their smartphones, or they are gathering to share photos of other paintings they have seen when they were split into smaller groups. As I said, the world has advanced. You can even have an audioguide take you round the museum, and tell you about things.

    After reading this post, it’s occurred to me that walking through museum and galleries are a modern, physical way of taking a walk through history. It can be fun, it can be informative, and can be interesting. As Siler points out, it can be exhausting too, so people sit down on the couches to take a break (and yes, look at their smartphones!). I use the resting spots to rest from my walk, and to gaze at whatever I am looking at. As I stated out in my comment, it can be overwhelming with all that information, so one would need to sit down.

    So, the next time you visit a museum, think of it as taking a walk through history. You never know. It might change your perspective (hopefully, it won’t be as exhausting), and I challenge you not to look a your smartphone once! 😀

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  55. It seems to me that the complainers have not had the experience of chaperoning groups of school kids. I once was in charge of a group of eight 8th graders visiting the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield, Michigan. The kids all stuck together with me, each had his or her own agenda, and one girl didn’t care where they went as long as she had time to spend her money at the gift shop.

    What would REALLY be worrisome would be if the kids were all absorbed in a trance, marveling at the famous and important art works. These children are soaking in the culture–we can be sure of that. Checking their cell phones is legit, they’re kids…

    By the way, Facebook certainly isn’t serving any great contributions to the culture!

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  56. This past summer I went to the Vincent Van Gough Meseum in Amsterdam. I took the time to read the blurbs on the wall, look at every painting, and made it out of there in 20 minutes. I appreciate art, but don’t know how people spend hours in meseums, it’s exhausting!

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  57. I didnt read the full thing, bit long for something as small as that, anyway, there are only certain young people who enjoy going to these exibits these fays, that is beacuse uts the bloody 21st cenntury WAKE UP! Its called technology, no they are not exhausted, if u didnt notice they are grouped into threes, group work, i have EVERY right to beleive that they are just looking up something to write down, whilst sneakung in a bit of instagram or snapchat etc. we are the generation tagt is growing up eith technilogy, any adult tajt dontbubderstand that i clearly in a sense, jealaus of the fact that they dis NOT have technilogy.

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  58. Haha I loved that you researched all of this. In addition to all of the other comments, a picture is taken in a fraction of a second, for all we know the next second one of them looked up and realised they were sitting across from De Nachtwacht hahaha. It is an exhausting museum though… Very large, lots of paintings…

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  59. I love the response many have had to this picture spiraling the web. It proves how a picture can’t show the whole story. You have no idea what is happening outside of it.
    Your idea’s and use of eveidence is great. As well as this, this is the generation we live in and it’s not a bad thing. This is the modern world after all.

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  60. I loved this post and I can completely relate to your analysis/explanation. As a student, I too have visited many museums, especially those throughout the Washington DC area, and I agree when you talk about how exhausting it is to visit an art museum. Especially when visiting with a group, you are constantly checking the time and trying to pace yourself to get through all the exhibits before the time to meet up so often times you get to see all of the paintings but their importance or meaning doesn’t really get the chance to soak in before you move onto the next. Overall, great job shining a new light on a potentially misinterpreted picture!

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  62. The first time i went to the Reichmuseum, it was being renovated and they had only a small section, with a selection of their finest works of art, open to the public. Even walking around that hurt my feet. The full version is killer. Of course you must sit down! Also, I had no interest in art at 14 so, in a similar situation, I might’ve sat on my butt and ignored the art.

    You are dead right – we cannot get inside the heads of these children; we do not know what is really going on here. People should get over themselves.

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  63. I find the lack of appreciation of their own culture indicative of todays youth. Not saying that is an excuse, but the youth today is so focused on themselves and their meaningless connections to their lives (via social media) that they have not had the opportunity to understand the true nature of adventure, mystery, fantasy, and magic. Fiction, history, art…it’s all so mundane to them. It’s a mindset set forth by lazy parenting. Free your minds kiddos. Look hard. Look deep. There is something to appreciate here. If nothing else, appreciate the fact that it has lasted so long under such indifference.

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  64. Thank you so much for defending teenagers. I’m a high school student and the idea that every time one of us is on our phones, we are wasting time is ridiculous. Especially with the emphasis teachers and schools today are putting on incorporating technology into the classroom–and often taking advantage of students’ smart phones.
    Also, field trips are exhausting, and benches are wonderful. Someone who gets it!
    Great post

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  65. We like to complain about “kids these days” being too caught up in video games, phones and social media, and maybe they are. But I reject the argument that they are a different breed than when I was young. They simply have these things to get caught up in, and I didn’t. We like to imply that if our generation had such things, we would never spend every waking hour pursuing them like these kids of today. I cry bunk. I remember going to the arcade and spending hours and untold dollars playing games. I remember sitting on the phone (a one on one social media) for hours. We were no different. We just didn’t have as many things to do besides go outside.

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  66. I see where you are coming from but when I was that age I was lucky enough to go abroad (yes I am from NY state) and was enraptured by the galleries and museums. I do not think much escaped my attention. A painting that large demands your attention. It is possible that the kids are from that area, country, or europe in general. Or they are american. Perhaps they have already looked at it and what we are seeing is them waiting (like you said) after seeing everything. I had not seen this photo before now, but interesting post you wrote here. Certainly food for thought.

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  68. Every picture tells a story;
    A different one to each observer …
    But pictures with pictures in them ?

    Like this exposition, but beware of preconceptions – always!

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  69. Glad you like my haiku. Obviously, you can relate. Latest research indicates that addiction to cell phones stifles creativity. Apparently, we need to be bored and daydream (have some down time) in order to rejuvenate our brains. Constant outside stimulation is not good for the brain. Curtailing cell phone use in class is quite a challenge. However, I have become quite good at detecting when a cell phone is interrupting learning. Quite sure I miss some too.

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  70. I’ve been working at the San Diego Museum of Art for 10 years now. I install exhibitions and build seismic mounts for our objects.

    I know what you mean about the exhaustion that comes with larger institutions. I’m a career museum goer, and it still tires me out.

    I noticed today in the sculpture garden that many people are beginning to simply lay out on blankets. We provide them now. It encourages picnicking. Today I thought about how wonderful that is. These folks just milling about the art, simply being in the space. It’s enough. It sets the tone and allows visitors to relax and even relate directly or indirectly to objects on a really intimate level.

    For those that think these kids stink I say phoey. At least they showed up.

    We’ll written and a great point. Viewing art doesn’t have to be spiritual and penitent. Sit, relax and enjoy the environment. Play clash of clans, text your girlfriend, whatever.

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  71. I used to think of ethnocentrism, judging another culture by your own ideals, but right now generational centrism is huge” we judge our own children and their behavior in the presence of various otherwise stimulating environments based on their access to the technology, that to which , we provide..

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  72. Hey!!!! I’m a head of department of the Asia’s fastest growing cultural festival. I LOVE the way you write. Can you please write an exclusive article for our blog? It’s basically for the youth so on some topic with which the youth can connect! Can you send me your Email ID so that I can give you more details? My email ID is Vithikashah123@gmail.com. Thankyou 🙂

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