Matagorda County Museum Our Blog What Is a Museum?

What Is a Museum?

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A museum is an institution that collects, conserves, researches, and displays cultural and natural heritage in a way that is publicly accessible and educational. It is not the same as a library, though they are often confused; museums hold primary tangible evidence of our past and present. It is this collection, the preservation of which is one of its central functions, that distinguishes a museum from other institutions with similar purposes.

In modern times, the definition of a museum has been broadened to include more than just art and history. Other types of museums include science, natural history, or even zoos. A common characteristic of all these types of museums is that they are designed to inspire their visitors. This inspiration is achieved in many different ways, but the most effective way seems to be through providing a narrative that is able to capture the imagination of the visitor.

Despite this broadened definition of what a museum is, major professional organizations from around the world still offer a variety of definitions about what a museum actually is. The majority of these organizations have a number of core themes that are shared, such as public good and the care, preservation, and interpretation of collections. Some of these museums may also have a special focus, such as science or national history, or they may be involved in a specific project, such as a building renovation or restoration.

Over time, as museums became more involved in society, they began to develop a body of theory that is known as museology. This helped to explain what a museum really is and what it does in society. The development of this theory, which was influenced by the practice of museums, led to the creation of a number of different types of museum and a wide range of services that they provide.

In recent times, museums have been used as a way to revitalize a city or region, for example the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was built as part of a plan to revitalize a dilapidated port area. The museums in these cases are a way to attract visitors and bring revenue to the city or region. This has been seen as a positive way to use museums, but some people have criticised this as an unsatisfactory reason for using museums in this economic role.

As museums have become more serious about the education of their visitors, they have been able to inspire more and more people. This has resulted in some visitors becoming what John Falk refers to as “rechargers”, who visit museums to have this inspirational experience. These visitors are not the only ones seeking inspiration from museums, however, and research suggests that a single museum can inspire many different kinds of audiences at once.