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Where Am I Supposed to Sit!

The visitor experience deteriorates when seating is limited or difficult to use. Part of museums and wellbeing is providing hospitality including sufficient seating

by Susan Marie Ward

Three people sitting on a bench in a museum
Seating is often limited in many museums

Yes, many museums have benches scattered here and there, but seating is often sparse and not as helpful for visitors as it might be.

“If there had been a place or two for me to sit and rest for a few minutes, I would have spent more time at the museum.”

Museum seating should be considered part of an integrated focus on hospitality, on improving the visitor experience, rather than necessary add-ons for older folks or people with disabilities.

Reasons to Sit in a Museum

Seating in museums, whether benches with backs, benches without backs, chairs, or stools, is used by many visitors. Often, when visiting a museum with friends, one or more of them will say, "I'm going to go find a place to sit down. I'll find you later." Later, they say, "Sorry I missed that last gallery but I had to go out to the lobby to find a place to sit down." They many need to sit because they have a recently sprained ankle, they may be older, they may have had a long day, they may be disabled.

But seating in museums is not just needed for those with physical challenges. Sitting and contemplating the lace in an 18th century portrait, or the intricacy of an early American quilt, or the Satinwood inlay in a Baltimore sideboard, fills the soul with a sense of awe and wonder. Sitting and sketching, doodling, or making notes, can lead to a sense of creativity or relaxation. All of these improve the visitor experience and connect museums and wellbeing.

Mom and baby sitting on a bench in a museum. Seating improves wellness opportunities.
Seating opportunities in museums are often limited

And sometimes parents just need a place to sit for a few minutes with their baby or toddler.

Recently, I visited an informative local history museum, the Swannanoa Valley History Museum in Black Mountain, North Carolina. It was filled with informative photos, artifacts, and text. And no place to sit. Yes, it's a small museum but one chair or bench would have extended my stay. I'd recently had knee surgery and while I'm nearly fully recovered, I got tired. With no place to sit for five minutes, I cut my visit shorter than I intended without seeing all that I wanted to.

Front facade of the National Museum of Korea in Seoul
The National Museum of Korea does an excellent job with providing visitor seating.

One museum that does seating well is the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. Not only do they have numerous benches and chairs throughout the galleries, but they have delightful clusters of seating tucked into corners and by windows--perfect spots for a family or group of friends to sit and rest, discuss a favorite piece of art, or plan out the rest of their visit (it IS a huge museum!)

What was the seating like at the last museum you went to? I hope it was a positive part of your visitor experience and made you feel like the museum had a strong focus on hospitality as part of their mission.

In what museum have you found excellent seating opportunities?


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