Matagorda County Museum Our Blog What Is a Museum?

What Is a Museum?



A museum is an institution that houses and displays collections of cultural or historical importance. It is also a public space that hosts exhibitions and other programs designed for different audiences. These programs may include lectures or tutorials by staff members or by field experts, film or music performances, technology demonstrations and more. The most well-known museums are world renowned and attract tourists from around the globe. Others are smaller and local, but still provide important educational services. Museums often have iconic buildings and can be significant symbols of a city or region. They can be quiet places with hushed halls that exude a musty scent or noisy centers where children run hither and yon.

Museums can house a wide variety of objects, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and other works of art; natural history specimens such as animals, rocks or minerals; archaeological treasures like the bronze Artemision Podeidon from ancient Greece; historic manuscripts and documents; musical instruments and more. Despite the vast differences between museums, they all share a similar mission to preserve and display these objects for the benefit of the general public. The museum’s collection must be carefully protected from theft and accidental damage by visitors, so a museum typically has security staff on hand to patrol the premises, especially in crowded or sensitive areas.

Some museums collect objects and make them available for research by other institutions and scholars, while others focus their efforts on making a particular part of the world’s heritage accessible to the general public. A small number of museums also specialize in preserving contemporary culture. Museums are usually non-profit organizations and receive most of their funding through ticket sales, donations, and grants. Some have partnerships with other museums and universities to exchange objects for exhibits or to develop research collaborations.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of debate about what a museum should be and how it should engage with its community. For many people, a museum should not be merely a house of collections and beautiful stops on the tourist trail but one that seeks out to understand the complex interconnections between humanity and its heritage.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has a long-standing definition that states a museum is “an institution, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humankind and its environment for education, cultural, scientific and recreational purposes.” This is an ambitious goal and has been the subject of intense discussion among museum professionals worldwide.