Museums Around the World

From the Louvre in Paris to the Tokyo National Museum, museums around the world are home to incredible collections that capture the imagination of visitors. Each one offers a glimpse into the past and a reflection of human creativity. From the renowned art pieces to the groundbreaking scientific discoveries, these museums are a must-see for anyone.

The first museum in Europe was a collection of natural history, established by the Duke of Ferrara in 1786, but interest in the subject had been growing for some time before that. The earliest museum buildings were often based on royal or noble patronage and designed to showcase the wealth of a nation, such as the Prado in Madrid, built for Charles III of Spain to house his own collection. Others were designed to encourage industry and the development of natural resources, such as the industrial museum built in Tokyo in 1872.

During the 17th and early 18th centuries museum collection grew rapidly, partly because of private interest and partly because of new technologies for preservation and display. This led to a proliferation of institutions that were more or less dedicated to a particular theme. Although some were specialized and others focused on particular groups of objects, they all shared the goal of preserving and making accessible primary tangible evidence of humanity’s past to a wider public.

By the 19th century, the movement to establish a unified picture of mankind’s past had spread to most parts of the globe. Museums appeared in the major cities of Europe and North America, as well as in Latin American capitals and in China. The majority were funded by government at both local and national levels, but there was also a great diversity of providers: universities, societies, companies, and individuals. In the latter half of the century the movement for a coherent past was strongly influenced by a desire to promote patriotism and a sense of national identity, and museums were established to help educate the general public in the culture and history of their country.

Despite the effects of Covid, it appears that people are beginning to visit museums again. While some venues have had sluggish recoveries, such as the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels (down 40% on 2021), the Neues Museum in Berlin, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre, others have seen dramatic increases, including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, which tripled its attendance to 954,000 last year, helped by a Hieronymus Bosch exhibition.

In many cases the rebound is partly driven by a return to pre-pandemic policies on museum opening times. For example, the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, which used to open seven days a week before the pandemic, returned to its regular opening hours this year and saw visitor numbers skyrocket. Other factors include a resumption of flights to major cities and the reopening of major museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum in New York which attracted more than 1.1 million people last year, a rise of nearly 50% on 2019.