There are many different types of museums, each with a unique purpose. Some are purely educational and research institutions, while others engage in social engagement and civic pride. Others serve a dual purpose: to promote tourism or civic pride, and sometimes to transmit political, religious, or ideological concepts. While some museums may have different purposes, their basic purpose is to preserve and interpret a material aspect of a society’s cultural consciousness. To learn more, read the following descriptions of museums.
The word museum was first used to describe an institution, and the word “museum” itself has a long history. Its origins go back to classical times, when the Greek word mouseion meant “seat of the Muses,” and the Latin term was later used to describe philosophical discussion. In the 3rd century BCE, Ptolemy I Soter established the great Museum of Alexandria, which resembled a proto-university, with a famous library and college of scholars. In the 15th century, the word “museum” was revived and became an apt description of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s collection in Florence. During that time, the word evoked a sense of completeness, and the museum was a place to experience it.
What is a museum? A museum is a place where one can study artifacts and objects and get an insight into a particular culture or historical period. The collections in museums vary widely in quality and complexity. Some museums exhibit more than 100 objects, while others have thousands of objects from ancient times to contemporary times. But no matter where a museum is located, there are many ways to enjoy it. So how do you choose the best museum for you?
Changing the definition of a museum can be difficult, but ICOM’s Define committee spent months discussing the issue. They spoke to 900 members of ICOM and received 269 suggestions for a new definition of the museum. Out of these, only one proposal, with just 99 words in two paragraphs, was chosen by the executive board of the organization. However, the proposal was not widely accepted, and the European museum community is now scrambling to come up with a new definition.
While the definition of a museum as an educational institution captures many of the important functions of a museum, many adults don’t visit museums for this purpose. Many adults view museums as stuffy, childish, or simply not educational. In response, museums should emphasize the fact that education does not have to be stuffy. Instead, they should demonstrate that they are educational and not just for children. If you can convince an adult to visit a museum, they will come back again.
In addition to cultural importance, museums also play an economic role. Many post-industrial cities have turned to museums for economic development. The Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, for example, was built to help the city revitalize itself. The Basque government agreed to pay $100 million for the building. Though the project faced some controversy, it has paid off financially for the city. In 2015, over one million people visited the Guggenheim Bilbao.