What Is a Museum?


A museum is an institution that preserves artifacts and exhibits them to the public. The word “museum” comes from the ancient Greek, and it originally meant a place where education was conducted. However, it also means a space where visual art was displayed.

Museums are important institutions that contribute to human knowledge and understanding. They also help to build a sense of place. This is especially important in times of turmoil and political upheaval. For example, museums can provide a glimpse of the past and encourage people to learn about their own community.

Several types of museums exist, from local museums to larger, more formal museums. Some, such as the Brooklyn Museum, have a primary mission to educate the local community. Others, such as the Guggenheim Bilbao, are nontraditional institutions. These museums operate differently than traditional museums, relying on the participation of visitors. Pop-up museums, for example, are nontraditional museums that create shared historical authority.

General museums are widespread in eastern and western Europe and North and South America. The Brooklyn Museum was founded in 1823 as the Brooklyn Apprentices’ Library, but it has since expanded into a large collection of art. In addition to its extensive collection of art, the Brooklyn Museum has worked to repatriate works of art that were taken during conflicts or from sacred sites.

A museum is often run by a director. This director often reports to a higher body. Its staff may include curators and other specialists who arrange the displays and care for the objects. While many museums are designed for the general public, some are more specialized, providing research and exhibitions for audiences of a specific culture, gender, race, or ethnicity.

The Museum of Modern Art is a leading example of a museum that has been collecting and preserving art for over a century. The Museum’s collection has a diverse focus, including works from Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Islamic world. Early acquisitions included works of Egyptian antiquities, as well as European paintings. With the growth of the Museum in the twentieth century, the Museum began collecting works from the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa.

As an organization, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) defines a museum as a place where human knowledge and understanding is preserved and made available to the public. It is also an institution that serves the community, works to advance research, and strives to achieve its goals.

ICOM’s definition of a museum is based on a series of consultations, which aims to produce a set of definition proposals that can be submitted for voting in the next ICOM General Conference in 2022. Each committee of the ICOM has a role in the process. Each of these committees has developed a ranking of five proposed definitions, and has had an opportunity to comment on the top choice. The Standing Committee for the Museum Definition has drafted a proposal, which will be voted upon by the ICOM Advisory Council.