Matagorda County Museum Our Blog What Is a Museum?

What Is a Museum?

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Museums play many roles, from preserving artifacts to promoting cultural awareness. They have a unique ability to bring people together, whether on a national or local level. This is especially important in these tumultuous times, when hatred and ignorance are all too common. Museums can promote unity by celebrating shared heritage or, on a more political level, by exhibiting historical events, wonders and tragedies that help us to understand how different cultures view the world around them.

In order to reach this goal, museums need to be relevant and engaging. This can be accomplished through interactive technology that enhances the visitor experience. For example, smartphone apps that “walk” visitors through exhibits are one way to create a more personal tour, and they can include bonus content like quizzes or video presentations. Museums can also use large display monitors to surround visitors with engaging video and audio content that adds depth to displays. Gamification such as puzzles and treasure hunts are another great way to engage visitors, and these types of tools can be combined with augmented reality (AR) for an even more immersive museum-going experience.

Traditionally, museums have been defined as institutions that collect, exhibit and educate, although they may also serve other purposes such as recreational facilities; scholarly venues; resources for regional tourism or for civic pride and nationalistic endeavour; or even to transmit overtly ideological concepts. However, despite their diversity in form and function, museums are all bound by the desire to preserve and communicate some material aspect of society’s culture.

The debate over what museums are has shifted with the emergence of new approaches to museums and new understandings of their role. For example, some believe that a new definition must incorporate the social role of museums, and acknowledge that visitors come partly to construct or continue to construct their identities through a process of apprehending the past. In addition, the traditional focus on collections is seen as hegemonic and elitist; the newer generation of museum practitioners would like to see museums that are socially interactive and question established museological practices, and welcome a multiplicity of voices including those external to the museum.

Another change in the debate is the increasing role of museums as economic drivers, and a means to revitalize or regenerate urban centers. Examples of this can be found in cities such as Bilbao, where the Guggenheim Museum is a major part of the city’s economy. These economic benefits are being cited by governments and businesses as a reason to support museums and their collections, exhibitions and educational activities.

When designing a museum exhibit, the first thing that must be taken into account is the unique needs of each visitor group. The best way to do this is by creating and targeting specific visitor personas. Using these personas, designers can then create exhibits that are both relevant and engaging for the target audience. If done correctly, the museum will be able to create a truly memorable and unique visitor experience.