A museum is a building or institution that cares for and displays artifacts of scientific, artistic, historical or cultural importance. There are large museums in major cities throughout the world and many smaller local museums also exist. The aims of museum vary from serving researchers and specialists to catering to the general public.
A good museum does more than display artifacts: It interprets those artifacts and their context to the public. It is also a place of dialogue and reflection, of sharing knowledge, and of creating community.
According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, a museum is a place or institution that collects and exhibits objects of artistic, scientific, historical or cultural importance. It may have permanent or temporary exhibits.
Usually, a museum is open to the general public and charges an admission fee. Some also have free days, especially on Sundays.
There are different types of museums, and they are all dedicated to a specific subject or theme. For example, there are archaeological museums that display ancient relics from a specific region. Similarly, there are natural history museums that show animals from all over the world.
In addition to displaying the physical artifacts, museums have an important role in preserving and protecting those objects for future generations. They often have conservation staff and storage facilities.
They are also important in documenting the evolution of human civilization and collecting and archiving information about past events. This has made it easier to understand how cultures and people have evolved over time.
Depending on the type of museum, the contents may include archaeology, sculpture, paintings, photography, and other items. Some of these museums have extensive collections, while others may only have a few selected objects.
Museums that are focused on a specific topic often use a combination of exhibits, demonstrations, educational programs, and thought-provoking media to help the public gain an understanding of that subject. For example, a science museum may have planetaria, IMAX theaters, or other technological marvels to help visitors learn about the field.
The most famous museum in the world is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which displays millions of works of art from around the world. It has a huge collection of Egyptian artifacts, as well as the famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo DaVinci.
There are many other top-notch museums throughout the world, too. For instance, Buenos Aires’ Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes displays some of the greatest works of Argentinian and worldwide artists.
Another notable example is the Guggenheim Bilbao, which was built in the city’s old port area to revitalize that area and bring in tourists.
The old ICOM definition of a museum stated that it “acquires, preserves and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity.” While this was still true in some sense, the current ICOM definition calls for museums to do much more than just “acquire” their collections. It encourages them to be more than mere storage places for historical artifacts and it challenges them to be socially responsible.