A museum is an institution that acquires, preserves, and interprets the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of humankind and the world around us. Museums have an extensive history and may have evolved from the human need to gather and preserve material objects, to large collections of objects built by individual citizens before the modern era. No matter what the origins of a museum, it has a singular purpose: to interpret the world’s cultural consciousness through the medium of art.
Many key policymakers and opinion leaders see museums as a luxury for the wealthy, and they do not understand the benefits of visiting museums to the society. However, many studies have demonstrated that museum-going promotes critical thinking skills and builds civic pride. In addition to education, museums also serve as a social and political glue, providing a sense of place and community to local residents. In this way, museums are important places to learn about the history of the area and foster a sense of belonging.
Some cities have turned to museums as economic development tools. This type of cultural attraction has the ability to revitalize post-industrial areas. Examples of museums fulfilling this role are plentiful in cities around the world. In Spain, for example, the Guggenheim Bilbao was built by the city. The Basque regional government agreed to pay $100 million for its construction. Although the price of building this museum was controversial, it has paid off financially for Bilbao, as 1.1 million visitors visited it last year.
Today, many museums exist in every city. While the largest museums are based in large cities, thousands of smaller-city museums are scattered around the world. While most of these museums are aimed at educating the general public and fostering independent learning, many museums have also become focused on deep audience engagement. With such goals, the museum field has begun to take these efforts seriously. In Mexico City, for example, there are over 128 museums in the country.
Other jobs in a museum include building operator, public programming staff, and photographer. There are also positions in development and membership, gift shop manager, and security. Despite the diversity of jobs within a museum, most museums require many people with different backgrounds and experience. In general, the salaries in these positions are well-compensated, and there is also plenty of room for growth. It pays to be proactive and take advantage of opportunities in the museum sector.
Although the word museum has a classical origin, it is still considered a modern institution. The word museum came into use in ancient Greece and Roman times. The Greek word mouseion, meaning “seat of the Muses,” was incorporated into the Latin word museum to describe philosophical discussions. In the third century bce, Ptolemy I Soter created the great Museum of Alexandria, which was more of a proto-university than a museum. The word museum came back into use in 15th-century Europe to describe Lorenzo de’ Medici’s collection in Florence. It conveyed the idea of the collection’s scope and comprehensiveness.