What is a Museum?

A museum is a non-profit institution that collects, preserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humankind for the benefit of present and future generations. Its aim is to educate and enrich the public through the presentation of artifacts and of history, culture and science in a way that fosters appreciation and enjoyment.

Museums are places of wonder and delight that can make your jaw drop when you walk through their doors. Some museums are dedicated to a particular art or artist (hello, Terracotta Warriors), while others bring together masterpieces from all corners of the globe (hello Louvre and Uffizi). The best galleries and museums are not only full of beautiful works, but they also offer engaging and thought-provoking exhibitions that can change your perspective on society and culture.

The term “museum” is derived from the Greek word mouseion, which means seat of the Muses. Originally, it was used in a religious sense, and later became associated with places of learning and the arts. It was only in the 18th century that the museum developed into an independent institution, as it is today.

As the museum concept evolved, many different types of museums emerged. The most common are those that hold a collection and provide public access to it. These museums include art, natural history and science, archaeological, historical, ethnographic, and cultural museums. The goal of the museum is to inspire the imagination and foster appreciation and understanding of human creativity and cultural diversity.

These museums may be owned by government agencies, private individuals or organizations, or foundations. They are usually maintained and operated by a museum director who is often supervised by a board of trustees. Some museums are also involved in research, and their collections are frequently donated or loaned to other institutions for that purpose. Most museums also participate in international museum exchange programs.

Increasingly, museums are responding to social and environmental concerns, and the needs of their communities. These efforts include the development of sustainable museum practices, and the development of exhibitions that address issues such as climate change, the Anthropocene, and decolonization.

In addition, many museums have responded to calls for the restitution of artworks and objects that were stolen from indigenous peoples, and the decolonization of their collections.

Some museums are located on historic sites and focus on the history of the site itself. This includes historic homes, battlefields, battleships and other significant buildings. Museums in this category are sometimes called historical museums or living museums.

Other museums are based in cities and feature a collection of objects that is thematically linked to a city or region. These museums are sometimes known as city museums or civic museums. They are often large and have a wide range of departments, such as education, conservation, research, and exhibitions. Some have libraries, film and sound archives, and other specialized departments. They are primarily financed by admissions and other revenue sources, and they are supported by the local community.