Museum Etiquette in Berkeley, California

Berkeley is a fun, historic city with lots of awesome museums. Whether you want to see art, science exhibits, or the history of Berkeley’s food industry, there’s something for everyone. But before you go exploring on your own, make sure you research museum etiquette tips!

Museum etiquette is all about making the museum experience a good one for everyone involved- to do this, you may want to be mindful of what not to wear, how loud you’re talking, where not to eat or drink, and when it’s appropriate for taking photos. Museums take the protection and preservation of their artifacts very seriously, which can also extend to visitors who have disabilities. In order to make sure you have a pleasurable visit, please be mindful of following these rules:

  • Stay on top of all the rules and regulations for museums
  • Understand accessibility needs for everyone, not just those with disabilities
  • Be a polite museum guest to make sure you are having a good experience too! 
  • Have the confidence that follows from knowing what is expected of you in various situations
  • Museum staff strives to work with disabled visitors by providing special accommodations such as wheelchairs and sign language translators but please call ahead so they know what services will be needed.

Some rules are put in place by museums themselves but others are set forth by cities like Berkeley because they want the experience at their museums to be more relaxing than anything else! So before you make your next trip out-of-town check out these guidelines from Berkeley California Museums just to make sure you have a museum experience worth talking about.

  • Touching art is strictly prohibited. 
  • Light can damage items on display so natural light sources are eliminated and filters are used to help prevent internal lights from doing damage. 
  • Smoking, eating food and drink as well as wearing scents including perfume or cologne is also not allowed in galleries.

What to wear: Wearing anything that is noisy or disruptive can get you kicked out of a gallery space, so dress and stay quiet! Turn off your cell phone before entering the museum galleries because ringing phones are one of the top reasons for people being kicked out. Stay mindful when taking photos as well; never touch an object unless it says “Handle With Care,” don’t pose near museum objects without first getting permission from security guards, and do not take photos in areas where cameras are prohibited. Keeping these rules will ensure that:

  • You’ll be able to get more out of your experience in the museum
  • You’ll respect the art and take care not to interfere with people around you
  • You’ll have a quieter, better experience at the gallery

Museum Etiquette Guidelines also include how loud visitors can talk at all times while still being respectful to museum staff and other visitors.

What not to eat or drink: Food is one of the most common museum etiquette mistakes that people make!   The reason why eating in museums isn’t allowed? It has a lot to do with our sense of smell– if you’re walking through an art museum, for example, the last thing you want on your clothes is garlic fries from lunch. Plus it’s simply disrespectful- no matter what museum you visit (whether it’s science-oriented or art) they will have objects there that take months sometimes years just to produce, so don’t risk ruining them by spilling food accidentally all over their precious pieces in the exhibit! Observing this etiquette will show that you:

  • Respect the work that went into the production of priceless pieces
  • Contribute to a clean environment in museums.
  • Maintain the integrity of museums around the world by not eating or drinking
  • Respectfully enjoy museums without risking permanent damage to some of their most prized possessions 
  • Be an active participant in your museum experience

Running, shoving, and pushing can damage museum artifacts. Some museums are preferred field trip destinations for students or family getaways. Before you visit the museum with kids, ask what they offer.

Berkeley, California is blessed with some of the Bay Area’s most fantastic museums.  Here’s a list of our favorites:

  • Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
  • Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
  • Berkeley Natural History Museums
  • Museum of Paleontology
  • Essig Museum of Entomology Research
  • Lawrence Hall of Science
  • Aftel Archive of Curious Scents
  • Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles
  • Museum of Children’s Arts

All of these museums are located just a short distance from our location in downtown Berkeley, at 1935 Addison Street, Suite A!