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"Try Before You Buy" for Museums

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for January, 2001 -- Vol. 4, No. 9

I'm writing this from the Charlotte, NC airport, where I just finished a business trip. Between meetings, I had a couple of hours on my first day to sightsee. I found my way to the Mint Museum of Art--and by the time I got there, I could only spend about an hour.

With that short time to explore, I didn't really want to pay ten bucks for the museum admission. So instead, I went to the giftshop. There, I got a great sampling of the museum's holdings. Exquisite postcards of the extensive pre-Colombian collection, calendars with local painters I wasn't familiar with, posters and prints of their Matisses and Picassos, and of course a large quantity of famous paintings from other museums.

It was a great introduction, and now I know that if I ever find myself with four or five hours in Charlotte, this museum will be worth the ten bucks.

I've done this many times--and sometimes, when I went directly into a museum, I'd wished I had gone to the giftshop instead; this trick would have saved me the admission fee for some museums that weren't worth it. Sometimes, the gift shop is enough. Sometimes, it makes a compelling case to go inside and see the real thing. And when time is short or the collection quality is uncertain, it's a great "sneak preview"--and it's always free!

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