Graveyards for stuff. Tombs for inanimate things.
Their cavernous rooms and deep corridors reverberate with the soft, dead sounds of tourists shuffling and employees yawning.
They're like libraries, without the party atmosphere.
Occasionally a shrill voice bounces down from a distant hallway: "No photos!" and I swivel to see something, anything, that might be interesting.
But it's not.
Leering at a censured tourist for kicks says more about my own desperate situation than it does his, and anyway, it could have been me.
I unwrap a biscuit to get through the next 50 yards of 19th-century teaspoons and the same shrill voice rings out again: "No food!"
I've always hated museums.
Yet twice or three times a year, I somehow find myself within one, shuffling from glass case to glass case, reading the little inscriptions, peering closely at the details, doing what any "good traveler" does.
Two hours later I walk out bored, hungry and far less glad to be on vacation than when I went in.
The main thing you learn in museums, it seems, is how not to run a museum.
Amassing phantom university credits
"Vase: Iran; circa 15th century," I'm told, time after time, as if this is all I need to know.
As if what isn't said I should know already.
As if I'm not going to forget every dusty nugget of non-information the moment I walk away.
"The Age of Algae: September 1-December 15; $15 only," they offer, as if charging me for something I don't care about is a privilege.
Worst of all, there's a climate of snobbery surrounding this whole industry.
Confess that rather than stare glumly at an old beer chalice on a plinth you'd prefer to drink happily from a shiny new one in a pub, and you risk being outed as an ignoramus.
Well, I'm outing myself. I'm a museo-phobe.
It's not that the hollow sound of shoes echoing off marble floors sends me into a fit of rage. It sends me into a shrug of ennui.
Clearly the institutions behind museums are valuable. A lot of work is done outside the musty confines of their collections, from discovering new mammals in the jungles of Ecuador to creating and growing a huge global seed bank.
They provide an umbilical link between our planet and our history to the future.
But inside these crypts of curatorship, the connection to humankind falls short.
Last year I visited Doha's Museum of Islamic Art -- a landmark at least as celebrated, if not more so, for its architecture than its contents, and no wonder.
After the 200th glass case containing an old bowl -- or was it a plate, or perhaps it was some more cutlery, who knows, who cares -- I decided the photo opportunity across the sea was the best thing about the place.