What Is a Museum?


Originally a place for displaying artifacts, museums have evolved to become more complex, social, and immersive. Museums now serve as educational and recreational resources and also contribute to civic pride and sustainability. They are also a place to learn about local history. They are now more accessible with the development of technology and apps.

Museums are not for profit organizations, and most of the money that is generated is invested in the organization. Generally, nonprofit museums are exempt from most taxes, as long as the museum is classified as a charitable corporation. These organizations also receive donations. Some cities have turned to museums for economic development, as they can provide employment and draw tourism. They can also revitalize post-industrial cities.

Museums also have a social purpose, as they serve as a place for the community to come together and learn about the local history. Often, museums sponsor joint exhibits with other museums. This can lead to limited engagements and an additional entry fee. Depending on the circumstances, museums may choose to acquire more items for exhibit.

Museums are also ethical institutions. Curators work to safeguard and preserve artifacts, as well as explain their meaning to the public. In most cases, museums do not allow people to physically touch the artifacts. They do, however, provide activities that will drive home the exhibits. In the future, as technology continues to advance, museums may become more virtual. These virtual tours and trails will make the museum more accessible and immersive for the public.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) is an organization that represents museums worldwide. It has defined a museum as a not-for-profit permanent institution devoted to the preservation of primary tangible evidence, the interpretation of material evidence of human activity, and the promotion of knowledge sharing. A museum can be located in a local community and may be operated by a director who reports to a higher body. In many cases, museums are affiliated with universities and colleges, and they may hire professional associations to oversee the collections, training, and research.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has established a process to define a museum, which will go through four rounds of consultation. In the process, the Standing Committee for the Museum Definition will be tasked with reformulating the definition of a museum. The committee will present a new definition to the General Conference of ICOM in 2022. A proposed schedule for the consultation began on December 10, 2020, and will end in early May 2022.

The new definition is intended to include a greater focus on the work of museums, including the ways in which museums can benefit others. Similarly to the Museum Association’s definition, the ICOM definition emphasizes the importance of a museum’s work for the public and its contribution to society. This definition also includes a clear reference to the importance of museums’ participation in the global dialogue on culture and society. The process has a proposed schedule of 18 months, and may be adjusted depending on the situation.