Histolircal exhibits are creative visual stories that enable people to connect, in some way, with bigger ideas through the materials they display. They provide a window into the dense research required when composing a history; they should be simple enough to avoid being a book on the wall yet complicated in ways that make them authentic. The best historical museums are inclusive and tell stories of people as well as objects. A good example is the Giant Sequoia tree slice at the Grove Museum in Los Angeles or the cast of a Rapa Nui (Easter Island) moai at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
In the twenty-first century museums must show why they deserve their tax-exempt status, not just to collect objects and tell old, familiar stories of a bygone age. To do so, they must explore the histories of all their constituents and find new sources. They must also address the broader, socio-political issues of their time.
These issues are often controversial, and museums should be ready to engage in open and rational discussion of them. However, a museum must never attempt to suppress or to impose a point of view, however widely shared. In fact, it should encourage people to learn about all points of view and the complexities of history.
Museums can take many forms, from small to large and from temporary to permanent. Some are located in cities and others are found at the local, state or provincial level. They can focus on specialized aspects of history or be devoted to general historical topics.
Most museums are nonprofit organizations which means that they are not owned or controlled by private investors. They are governed by a board of trustees and must report on their finances to the government. The majority of their money is made through admissions, gift shop sales, and other revenue streams. Some have endowments from private donors to help cover operating expenses or provide for future exhibitions. Others are supported by local, state or federal funding.