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British Museum from NE 2

The British Museum in London


A museum is an institution that houses and cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary.[1] Most large museums are located in major cities throughout the world and more local ones exist in smaller cities, towns and even the countryside. The continuing acceleration in the digitization of information, combined with the increasing capacity of digital information storage, is causing the traditional model of museums (i.e. as static “collections of collections” of three-dimensional specimens and artifacts) to expand to include virtual exhibits and high-resolution images of their collections for perusal, study, and exploration from any place with Internet connectivity.

Early museums began as the private collections of wealthy individuals, families or institutions of art and rare or curious natural objects and artifacts.

The museums of ancient times, such as the Musaeum of Alexandria, would be equivalent to a modern graduate institute (university).

HistoryEdit

Early museums began as the private collections of wealthy individuals, families or institutions of art and rare or curious natural objects and artifacts. These were often displayed in so-called wonder rooms or cabinets of curiosities. Public access was often possible for the "respectable", especially to private art collections, but at the whim of the owner and his staff. The oldest such museum in evidence was Ennigaldi-Nanna's museum, dating from c. 530 BCE and devoted to Mesopotamian antiquities; it apparently had sufficient traffic as to warrant labels for the ordered collection.

The oldest public museums in the world opened in Rome during the Renaissance. However, many significant museums in the world were not founded until the 18th century and the Age of Enlightenment:

  • the Capitoline Museums, the oldest public collection of art in the world, began in 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated a group of important ancient sculptures to the people of Rome.
  • the Vatican Museums, the second oldest museum in the world, traces its origins to the public displayed sculptural collection begun in 1506 by Pope Julius II
  • the Royal Armouries in the Tower of London is the oldest museum in the United Kingdom. It opened to the public in 1660, though there had been paying privileged visitors to the armouries displays from 1592. Today the museum has three sites including its new headquarters in Leeds.[2]
  • the British Museum in London, was founded in 1753 and opened to the public in 1759.[3] Sir Hans Sloane's personal collection of curios provided the initial foundation for the British Museum's collection.[3]
  • the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which had been open to visitors on request since the 16th century, was officially opened to the public 1765
  • Louvre in Paris France. The famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci of "Mona Lisa" resides in the Louvre.

These "public" museums, however, were often accessible only by the middle and upper classes. It could be difficult to gain entrance. In London for example, prospective visitors to the British Museum had to apply in writing for admission. Even by 1800 it was possible to have to wait two weeks for an admission ticket.[citation needed] Visitors in small groups were limited to stays of two hours. In Victorian times in England it became popular for museums to be open on a Sunday afternoon (the only such facility allowed to do so) to enable the opportunity for "self improvement" of the other - working - classes.

The first truly public museum was the Louvre Museum in Paris,[citation needed] opened in 1793 during the French Revolution, which enabled for the first time in history free access to the former French royal collections for people of all stations and status. The fabulous art treasures collected by the French monarchy over centuries were accessible to the public three days each "décade" (the 10-day unit which had replaced the week in the French Republican Calendar). The Conservatoire du muséum national des Arts (National Museum of Arts's Conservatory) was charged with organizing the Louvre as a national public museum and the centerpiece of a planned national museum system. As Napoléon I conquered the great cities of Europe, confiscating art objects as he went, the collections grew and the organizational task became more and more complicated. After Napoleon was defeated in 1815, many of the treasures he had amassed were gradually returned to their owners (but many others were not). His plan was never fully realized, but his concept of a museum as an agent of nationalistic fervor had a profound influence throughout Europe.

American museums eventually joined European museums as the world's leading centers for the production of new knowledge in their fields of interest. A period of intense museum building, in both an intellectual and physical sense was realized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (this is often called "The Museum Period" or "The Museum Age"). While many American museums, both Natural History museums and Art museums alike, were founded with the intention of focusing on the scientific discoveries and artistic developments in North America, many moved to emulate their European counterparts in certain ways (including the development of Classical collections from ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia and Rome). Universities became the primary centers for innovative research in the United States well before the start of the Second World War. Nevertheless, museums to this day contribute new knowledge to their fields and continue to build collections that are useful for both research and display.


PurposeEdit

National Motor Museum, Beaulieu Main Hall entrance - IMG 6978

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Hampshire. A Modern structure built in the 1970s

Museums collect and care for objects of scientific, artistic, or historical importance and make them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities throughout the world and more local ones exist in smaller cities, towns and even the countryside. Oftem, museums concentrate on the host region's culture.

Although most museums do not allow physical contact with the associated artifacts, there are some that are interactive and encourage a more hands-on approach. Modern trends in museology have broadened the range of subject matter and introduced many interactive exhibits, which give the public the opportunity to make choices and engage in activities that may vary the experience from person to person. With the advent of the internet, there are growing numbers of virtual exhibits, i.e. web versions of exhibits showing images and playing recorded sound.


Museums are usually open to the general public, sometimes charging an admission fee. Some museums are publicly funded and have no entrance fee, either permanently or on special days, e.g. once per week or year. A lot of museums in the united Kingdom has funded expansion and rebuilding work with the help of funds from the National Lottery and public appeals for special projects.

Museums are usually not run for the purpose of making a profit, unlike private galleries which more often engage in the sale of objects. There are governmental museums, non-governmental or non-profit museums, and privately owned or family museums. Museums can be a reputable and generally trusted source of information about cultures and history.

Definitions include: "permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment, for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment", by the International Council of Museums;[4] and "Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artifacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society," by the UK Museums Association.[5]

TypesEdit

Types of museums vary, from very large collections in major cities, covering many of the categories below, to very small museums covering either a particular location in a general way, or a particular subject, such as an individual notable person. Categories include: fine arts, applied arts, craft, archaeology, anthropology and ethnology, history, cultural history, military history, science, technology, children's museums, maps, natural history, numismatics, botanical and zoological gardens and philately. Within these categories many museums specialize further, e.g. museums of modern art, local history, aviation history, agriculture or geology. Another type of museum is an encyclopedic museum. Commonly referred to as a universal museum, encyclopedic museums have collections representative of the world and typically include art, science, history, and cultural history. An encyclopedic museum can also be a specific type of museum but whose collection is not limited to works of its region, i.e. the British Museum is an example of an encyclopedic museum while the Art Institute of Chicago is an example of an encyclopedic art museum. A museum normally houses a core collection of important selected objects in its field. Objects are formally accessioned by being registered in the museum's collection with an artifact number and details recorded about their provenance. The persons in charge of the collection and of the exhibits are known as curators.

See alsoEdit

Types

ReferencesEdit

  1. Edward Porter Alexander, Mary Alexander; (2007-09) Museums in motion: an introduction to the history and functions of museums. Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. ISBN 9780759105096. Retrieved on 2009-10-06. 
  2. "Royal Armouries Museum". Royalarmouries.org (1940-12-29). Retrieved on 2011-01-06.
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named BM
  4. "ICOM Statutes". INternational Council of Museums. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.
  5. (Definition adopted 1998)"Frequently asked questions". Museums Association. Retrieved on 2008-04-05.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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