What are Museums?

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  • Written By: Venus D.
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  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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Museums are institutions that preserve art, artifacts and sculptures for the betterment of society. Visitors can be inspired and enlightened by the exhibits available for viewing. Nearly all museums fall into one of the following categories: fine arts, applied arts, craft, archaeology, anthropology and ethnology, history, cultural history, military history, science, technology, children's museums, natural history, numismatics, and philately.

Museums fulfill their mission through tours of exhibits, lectures, and cultural programs. Due to the popularity of the Internet, there are also virtual exhibits. Museum activities, especially interactive exhibits, are currently being expanded through advances in museology, the study of how to organize and manage museums and museum collections.


This study is further promoted through the International Council of Museum (ICOM), an international association of museums and museum professionals whose mission is to preserve museums all over the world. During the 15th General Assembly of the ICOM in 1986, a code of ethics was adopted regarding how museums should be managed. Some of the issues addressed include the acquisition of collections; how exhibits should be organized, maintained, and removed; the legal framework under which museums operate; and the cultural sensitivity with which displays should be organized. Another organization that serves to improve museology is the Museums Association. Established in 1889 in the United Kingdom, it is the oldest organization of individual museum professionals, corporate members, and institutions, and serves it as a vehicle to promote better museum management through training, information dissemination, annual conferences, and so on.

One museum that has benefited from museology is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in New York City. It encompasses artifacts, sculptures, paintings and scrolls that span vast stretches of time and distance. Activities include lecture series, holiday activities that feature the lighting of the Christmas tree, concert series, and even Spanish language classes for children and families.

Museums are important for the improvement of society, not only for general educational purposes, but also to probe specific issues, such as the difference between the veneration of art and religious icons. The Getty Museum, located in Los Angeles, attempts to address this issue with an exhibit containing religious art, such as a sixth century portrait of the Apostle Peter holding the keys to heaven and a table with a chalice, patent, and cross, also from the sixth century. Visitors are able to make their own conclusions about the relationship between religion and art.


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