The definition of a museum is a complex issue. The current consensus is that a museum is a permanent, non-profit institution whose primary function is to acquire, communicate, and exhibit the intangible and tangible heritage of mankind. Yet, an alternative definition proposed by the World Museums Organization in 2007 argued that museums should be inclusive spaces of critical dialogue and the equal sharing of heritage by all people. While this latter definition may not have been embraced by every country, it is the most widely used and most commonly recognized by the global museum community.
There was a time when the ICOM definition reflected its own agenda and was hardly diverse. But now, with the world increasingly divided by political ideologies, a new approach may be necessary. Diversity of viewpoints is essential for creating more equitable representation of cultures and people, and inclusion of diverse views will be more political to the status quo. Moreover, diversification of museum audiences can help increase visitors’ interest in visiting museums and encourage funders to support them.
In the United Kingdom, the Museums Association was established in 1889 and is the oldest international organization of museums and museum professionals. This association promotes the improvement of museum practice through training, information dissemination, and conferences. It also offers a variety of support and resources to its members. The ICOM is also the leading global authority on the definition of a museum. In short, diversity helps make museums more successful. The role of a museum is vital to society, but it also has the potential to undermine it.
The ICOM has an editorial piece on the definition of a museum in 2019. It suggests that some museums are “uncareful of human well-being, equality, and planetary well-being.” This article asserts that some museums may be prioritizing objects above people. The objective of a museum is to serve humanity through education and research, and this role is essential to their mission. Its power to interact with people must be considered before making any decisions.
Another important task for museums is defining the concept of a museum. In addition to preserving the collection of objects, a museum also serves as a place to educate people on the importance of the collection. Often, a museum will collect and preserve artifacts originating from the past. A modern-day museum may include objects that have no precedent in the world. It can serve as an example of a historical site. Its location is vital to a society.
A museum’s purpose varies from institution to institution. Some emphasize education while others are primarily concerned with conservation. In one example, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, for example, displays objects as well as their functions. In contrast, a museum may serve a general public as a place to learn about a culture. However, it can also be intended for specific groups of people, such as the LDS Church History Museum. The definition of a museum is a key component of the society’s identity and its values.