Creating Wonder and Wonder in a Museum

Museums have a long history of serving as cultural and educational centers for society. Their exhibitions provide an invaluable glimpse into the past and help us understand how we as humans evolved over time. Even though museums cannot fully cover the full story of humanity, the lessons we can learn from past events, wonders and tragedies are invaluable.

The word museum, from the Greek “mouseion” or “seat of the Muses,” originally meant a place where arts and sciences were cultivated. In the medieval era, however, the term came to refer to a collection of treasures or objects that were considered to be of historical value. This changed in the modern era when museums became more focused on educating their visitors by showcasing a range of artifacts, art, science and culture.

What sets great museum exhibits apart from their more boring counterparts are the stories they tell. Whether it be a story behind an ancient artifact, or a mini-story woven into the architecture of a building, museums need to tell these stories in order for visitors to connect with them. This can be accomplished through a combination of techniques such as using signs, banners and interactive kiosks to explain the significance of each piece or by adding gamification like puzzles and treasure hunts to the experience.

In addition to being educational, a good museum will foster experiences of wonder and awe. The latter has been linked to a sense of oneness with others and altruism. A museum that can create these experiences may be able to better serve its purpose of promoting empathy and compassion in its visitors. A good example of this is the “overview effect” experienced by astronauts viewing our planet from space for the first time. This experience evokes a strong sense of awe and a feeling of connectedness to all life on earth.

Creating these experiences of awe and wonder can be difficult in a museum setting. It requires a lot of research and hard work to ensure that the museum is providing its visitors with valuable information about history, culture and human achievement. This is why museums need to have a solid collection of artifacts to draw upon. They also need to have a variety of technological displays such as visual simulations of battles or campaigns and reconstructed models of how cities or buildings looked in the past.

While it is important for museums to have a good collection of artifacts, they must also be willing to adapt to changing times and needs. A museum that can meet the evolving needs of its audience will be a more successful institution than one that doesn’t. This is why it is vital to support your local museums through visitation, membership and philanthropy so they can continue to evolve into impactful institutions.