The Definition of a Museum
A museum is an institution that acquires, preserves, exhibits, and communicates the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity. It can be an art gallery, a historic site, or a living museum. The term “museum” applies without limitation to the governing body of a museum and does not take into account the territorial character or orientation of its collections. However, it is important to keep in mind that a museum may not be a traditional cultural center or an academic research institute.
The term “museum” comes from the nine classical Greek muses. The famed “Museum” of ancient Alexandria was not a museum; rather, it was a university with a vast library. According to scholars, the first museum appeared in 17th or 18th century Europe. Although the term is relatively new, museum-making dates back to ancient Rome, where statues and sculptures were often displayed in public squares. In medieval Europe, churches kept treasuries of art and objects that were sacred, while traditional Japanese shrines displayed small paintings to attract good luck.
There was a general consensus that the definition of museums should incorporate a variety of perspectives. The proposed definition included elements of democratisation, critical dialogue, social justice, planetary well-being, and gender equity. During consultation one, twenty-four national and international committees, 1 affiliated organisation, and one working group responded. The responses provided important considerations and will be useful for future consultations. And a universal definition will be adopted during the next ICOM General Conference in 2022.
A definition for a museum is not easy to come by. A consensus definition must be agreed upon by all stakeholders in the field. While this process will take many years, it is worth the effort. A successful museum is a museum for all people. So, it is essential that the definition of a museum is clear, accurate, and inclusive. If it is not, a museum is not a true museum. A lack of definition will lead to a museum lacking legitimacy and credibility.
Besides focusing on a museum’s importance to society, there are also a number of other factors that define a museum as a cultural institution. The first is the purpose of the museum. Its goal is to educate and inform people. A good museum will engage in dialogues with people in different social groups. Its objective should be to contribute to a culture and society. The second is to create a community. In a culturally diverse environment, it is critical to be able to express and communicate these values.
The word “museum” derives from the nine classical Greek muses. The famous “Museion” in ancient Alexandria served as a university, not a museum. Its predecessors have been museum-related for centuries, from Roman public squares to medieval church treasuries. Even the earliest museums have a long history. The word “museum” actually refers to the idea of a cultural institution. Its name comes from the Greek museum.