The Definition of a Museum

A museum is a permanent institution that collects, preserves, and displays the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of humanity, its people, and its environment. Listed museums are governed by a governing body, but any institution that meets this standard is eligible to become a museum. They may be open to the public and can also be live. The definition applies without restriction to the governing body or its collection, and does not take territorial character or orientation into account.


There are different types of museums. Some are open to the public and others are private. The aim of a museum is to educate, preserve, and exhibit the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. A museum’s mission is to serve the general public and researchers. Some of the most notable types of museums are the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ National Gallery of Art, and the New York Public Library.

The term museum has a long and distinguished history. The word museography was first used in 1776 by Portuguese scholar Emanuel Mendes da Costa. A German journal, the Zeitschrift fur Museologie und Antiquitatenkunde, was published in 1881. Since then, the terms have been interchangeable, and the terms have become synonymous. The scope of the term museology has expanded beyond a narrow definition of a museum.

The ICOM has a committee to help develop the definition of a museum. This committee works with the curatorial staff of a museum to care for its objects and display them for public viewing. The director reports to a higher body, and many large museums also have education and research departments. A meeting of the Standing Committee for the Definition of a Museum will take place at the ICOM General Conference in 2022. The process may change in the future, but it will be a good start for identifying a museum’s mission.

The word museum and words derived from it have a long and respected history. In 1776, Emanuel Mendes da Costa referred to himself as a “museographist” and the term museography was first published in Dresden in 1881. The terms have been used interchangeably ever since. They both refer to the practice and theory of a museum. This definition has become an important benchmark for the profession.

There are many different types of jobs that can be found in a museum. The most common are curation and archiving, but there are also jobs in art handling and conservation. There are many different types of museums, and there is a career for every kind of person. It is important to note that the definition of a museum is an evolving field, and it is important to continue the process of defining the term. The ICOM General Conference will have to make decisions on its future and how to improve it.