I used to have this idea that in order to fully appreciate a museum exhibition one had to go early in the day when the show was not crowded and read every word of text on the walls in addition to studying the paintings themselves. And then came the audio tours. I spent a few years resisting the audio tours in all but those exhibitions about which I knew absolutely nothing in favor of proceeding to the works of art of my own selection upon entering a room. I became a bit annoyed with what seemed like a herd of cattle proceeding from one wall placard with a headphone symbol and a corresponding number to another, with no regard for anything else in the room. I would purposefully examine the other objects, the lesser crowds in front of them, and try to scoot back to the popular audio tour pieces when the masses moved on to the next audio tour selection.
However, in recent months I have come to really enjoy the audio tours as a way to enjoy the artwork often with a soothing background of period music or the addition of voices, accented appropriately to the content of the exhibition, to give flavor and feel to the shows. I realized that one can always turn off the audio tour and enjoy the “other” works in a room but still learn something extra that might come with the audio tour. It is an especially nice way to peruse an exhibition, especially on a solo museum visit. The more high tech these devices get, the more fun they are. Try one out the next time you go to a museum. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.