As places where we preserve, study and interpret the primary tangible evidence of human activity and the natural world, museums are fundamental to our understanding of the past. But they also play a vital role in educating people about our cultural and natural heritage, and helping people appreciate the richness of the world we live in.
The word museum derives from the Greek term, mouseion, which meant seat of the Muses. The word’s Roman form, muzeum, was a prototype university and, as such, had more in common with an institution of learning than an art gallery or other cultural institutions.
During the course of the twentieth century, museums began to be established as a result of the spread of modernism. Museums were conceived as institutions that could be used to teach, stimulate and enrich society through research and education.
Today, museums exist worldwide in all shapes and sizes. They are located in urban centers, small towns and rural communities. They are often affiliated with universities, government agencies and other institutions. They serve a diverse group of people, including students, tourists, locals, and international visitors. They are also a source of employment and provide a wide variety of career paths for the museum professional.
Many of the world’s most famous museums include masterpieces such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. But there are a lot of lesser-known treasures worth visiting too.
It is interesting to note that there are even museums that don’t fit into any of the usual definitions, for example, natural history museums and anthropology museums. Interestingly, even science centers are considered museums, though their collections are mostly scientific, rather than cultural or artistic in nature. Zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums are also included in some definitions of museums, though they primarily focus on living plants and animals, rather than painting and sculpture.
Museums are governed by the Board of Trustees and/or Director and supported by staff members. These employees are responsible for the hands-on care of objects, as well as their acquisition, movement and storage. They are also responsible for curating and interpreting the collection to be shared with the public. The staff also manages the fundraising and development of the museum.
As the museum profession evolves and changes, it is important to think about how we define a museum. It is crucial to have a clear and agreed upon definition in order to maintain consistency, transparency and accountability among museums as they work together to share knowledge.