The Definition of a Museum


The question of what a museum is remains a debated issue. Its definition is often based on the UNESCO term “house of collections,” which is used by some governments. But many museums feel that the UNESCO definition is too narrow, and many want an update. In June, ICOM’s French branch held a meeting to discuss a new definition of a museum. But the discussion grew stale, with some member countries repeating their objections. Burcak Madran, the director of the Danish National Museum, said the proposal included political terms, which might aggravate authoritarian governments. After months of discussion, the chair resigned.

The mission of a museum varies by type. Some are geared toward education, while others are more interested in preserving collections. For example, the Canada Science and Technology Museum displayed objects in their original functions as well as their significance. One exhibit featured a historical printing press, which was used by a staff member to create museum memorabilia. Some museums aim to appeal to a broad audience. Others have a more narrow focus, like the LDS Church History Museum, which collects important objects from church history.

The definition of a museum can be somewhat broad. A museum can be a non-profit institution that acquires, conserves, and exhibits the intangible heritage of mankind. Non-profit museums generally do not pay taxes, and any money they earn is reinvested in the organization. For-profit, private museums pay their owners or shareholders. There is a fine line between a museum and a business. In the United States, a nonprofit museum will usually be tax exempt.

In addition to the ICOM Define definition, a committee is reviewing the definition of a museum. The committee’s proposed new methodology will include 4 rounds of consultation. The new definition will then be put to a vote at the next ICOM General Conference in 2022. During the consultation, the committee will be required to submit a report on its findings, which should be approved by ICOM’s leadership in Prague. And while it may be challenging to reach consensus, there is no guarantee that the definition will stay static.

In the early days of museums, private collections of wealthy individuals, families, and institutions started forming and displaying art objects. These collections were often displayed in cabinets of curiosities and wonder rooms. Public access to private art collections was often subject to the whims of the owners. The British Museum was founded in 1753 and opened its doors in 1759. It grew out of Sir Isaac Sloan’s personal collection. The Uffizi Gallery opened its doors to the public in 1765.

In addition to iconic positions, museum jobs are also supported by technology. ACME CRM, for example, helps museums learn about their customers, while ticketing software from Acme simplifies the transaction process. Ultimately, these technologies help museums build marketing and curatorial plans based on collected data. The data can be analyzed to create new initiatives and improve existing ones. It’s all part of the museum’s mission to educate visitors. So, consider a career in the field of museum education and explore the many benefits it can offer.