From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search

A museum is typically a "permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education, enjoyment, the tangible and intangible evidence of people and their environment." This definition is taken from the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Statutes, article 2, paragraph 1, and is regularly reviewed and modified at the triennial ICOM General Assemblies. The italicized tangible and intangible was substituted for the previous material at the last triennial General Assembly in Seoul in 2004, pending ratification at the next General Assembly in Vienna in 2007. (The new wording was introduced in the revised ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, which is another of the museum profession's core normative instruments.) Museums are usually not run for the purpose of making a profit, unlike galleries which engage in the sale of objects. There are governmental museums, non-governmental or non-profit museums, and privately-owned or family museums.

Modern museums concentrate on a particular subject, and most museums belong to one or more of the following categories: fine arts, applied arts, archaeology, anthropology, ethnology, history, cultural history, science, technology, natural history. Within these categories many museums specialize further, e.g. museums of modern art, local history, aviation history, agriculture or geology. A museum normally houses a core collection of important selected objects in its field. Objects are formally accessioned by being registered in the museum's collection with an artifact number and details recorded about their provenance. The persons in charge of the collection and of the exhibits are known as curators.

Open-air museums collect and re-erect old buildings at large outdoor sites, usually in settings of re-created landscapes of the past. The first one was King Oscar II's collection near Oslo in Norway, opened in 1881. In 1891 Arthur Hazelius founded the famous Skansen in Stockholm, which became the model for subsequent open air museums in Northern and Eastern Europe, and eventually in other parts of the world. Most open air museums are located in regions where wooden architecture prevail, as wooden structures may be translocated without substantial loss of authenticity. A more recent but related idea is realized in the ecomuseums, which originated in France.

Early museums began as princely collections of art and rare or curious natural objects and artifacts. These were often displayed in so-called wonder rooms or cabinets of curiosities.

Interior of the British Museum
Interior of the British Museum

Museums are usually open to the general public, sometimes charging an admission fee. Some museums have free entrance, either permanently or on special days, e.g. once per week or year.

The museum is usually run by a director, who has a curatorial staff that cares for the objects and arranges their display. Large museums often will have a research division or institute, which are frequently involved with studies related to the museum's items, as well as an education department, in charge of providing interpretation of the materials to the general public.

Objects come to the collection through a variety of means. Either the museum itself or an associated institute may organize expeditions to acquire more items or documentation for the museum. More typically, however, museums will purchase or trade for artifacts or receive them as donations or bequests.

For instance, a museum featuring Impressionist art may receive a donation of a Cubist work which simply cannot be fit into the museum's exhibits, but it can be used to help acquire a painting more central to the museum's focus. Larger museums may have an "Acquisitions Department" whose staff is engaged fulltime in this kind of activity.

Museums often cooperate to sponsor joint, often traveling, exhibits on particular subjects when one museum may not by itself have a collection sufficiently large or important. These exhibits have limited engagements and often depend upon an additional entry fee from the public to cover costs.

The word "museum" comes from the Latin museum, plural musea, which is in turn derived from the Greek mouseion, which refers to a place or temple dedicated to the Muses, the patron divinities in Greek mythology of the arts.

It is said that there are more museums per person in Finland than in any other country in the world.

A recent development with the expansion of the web, is the establishment of virtual museums, typically with no counterpart in the real world.


Further reading

  • Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics, Routledge 1995

Museum designers

Notable international museum designers include Ralph Appelbaum and Edwin Schlossberg.

See also

External links

Personal tools