A museum (also known as a musem or museo; plural: museums) is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and makes them available for public viewing. These institutions often offer education, research, and community outreach. Some also serve as a catalyst for economic development or rejuvenation in their host cities.
The most popular museums in the world include awe-inspiring displays of artwork by artists like Monet, and cultural and historical treasures that showcase a destination’s heritage and culture. Many of these museums are housed in impressive buildings that are themselves tourist attractions in their own right.
Most museums are not-for-profit, and are operated by a Board of Directors with the oversight of a Director or Curator. These organizations are guided by a set of policies that establish standards for the management of the institution. These documents include an institutional plan, ethical guidelines, and collections policy. In addition, many museums are governed by a code of ethics and standards of practice established by the American Alliance of Museums.
Museums are a place to learn about the past, but they also provide an opportunity for visitors to see how their own worldviews have changed over time. While many people think of museums as being places to be passively entertained, a visit to the best museums in the world can actually make you more empathetic and understanding of other cultures.
Traditionally, museums were created by wealthy individuals or families who collected art and rare natural and scientific objects. These items would be displayed in so-called wonder rooms or cabinets of curiosities, and access was generally limited to the “respectable” classes. By the late 18th century, however, Napoleon had created an ambitious plan to collect all of Europe’s art for his own personal museum, and these efforts accelerated the development of museums as a public institution.
Modern museums offer a wide range of programs, including lectures and tutorials by museum staff or guest lecturers, films, musical or dance performances, technology demonstrations, and more. Many focus on the culture of their host region, and some even have a full-time staff dedicated to collecting and caring for artifacts related to the local history.
Although the majority of visitors to a museum are adults, children’s programs and family-friendly exhibitions have become increasingly important for museums. Additionally, museum educators are working to incorporate more cultural diversity in their exhibits and programming.
A career in a museum is both rewarding and challenging. A bachelor’s degree in museum studies is a requirement for most entry-level positions, and coursework in art, history, and sociology is recommended. Internships and job shadowing are a great way to find out more about the field. Membership in a professional organization is also helpful, as these groups can assist with networking, informational interviews, and job opportunities.
As a result of their mission to serve the public, museums must be well-funded to maintain and improve their facilities, care for their collections, and keep up with technological advances in their field. They are also responsible for educating the public about their unique cultural and historical collections, which is why it is important for museums to remain accessible and affordable to all.