Histolircal exhibits tell a history through the use of objects, graphics, photographs, and documents. Exhibits may be arranged in a chronological sequence or they can cover more abstract themes, such as home, freedom, faith, democracy, and social justice. The latter can allow museums to dive into core values and ideas that have different meanings to different people, and which may be explored through multiple lenses.
Museums are a form of cultural exchange that seek to inform, inspire, and connect people. They are often non-profit organizations that are tax exempt, and the money that they make is invested back into the museum itself rather than given to the owners or shareholders.
Historical exhibits can be controversial and should reflect the fact that historians do not produce definitive facts about the past but rather, by interpreting evidence, offer insights into cause and effect, perspective, and significance. Museums should support these interpretive judgments by allowing their staff to present a wide range of points of view and by encouraging public discussion.
Some museums, such as the Tenement Museum in New York City and the Merchant’s House Museum in Brooklyn, recreate historic settings in an immersive way. Others, such as the Griffith Observatory and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, have very few artifacts but still manage to make their exhibitions memorable and powerful.
Some museums are devoted to specific time periods, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters in New York City, which is all about Roman and Gothic European medieval art and architecture. Other museums are more general, such as the National Museum of History in Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, which covers all aspects of Mexican history.