This Museums Essay example is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic, please use our writing services. EssayEmpire.com offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.
Museums are nonprofit organizations that own, utilize, exhibit, and care for tangible objects that are exhibited to the public on a regular schedule. Museums take on the challenge of caring for and exhibiting objects of historical, artistic, cultural, or scientific merit. Museum collections have become accessible to a broad global learning public via digitization of their objects. Many organizations now have images of their collections available to anyone with an Internet connection through Web sites, Webinars, applications such as Google Art Projects, or the Modern Museum of Art in New York City’s inventory of its collections; software such as the Species Analyst; online libraries such as Europeana, Europe’s multimedia online library; widgets; blogs; and so on.
Types Of Museums
The many and varied museum formats include archeology, fine and applied arts, anthropology, biography, children’s crafts, encyclopedia, ethnology, historic houses, history, living history, maritime, military and war, mobile (exhibitions from a vehicle), natural history, open air (outdoor), pop-up (a short-term institution existing in a temporary space), science, technology, virtual (Web presence platforms), industry, zoological parks, and botanical gardens.
Evolution Of Museums
The word museum has its earliest origins in the Greek Mouseion—a temple dedicated to the muses, who watched over the welfare of the arts. The early museums began in the private collections of wealthy individuals or institutions. The earliest museum on record dates back to 530 b.c.e. and was devoted to Mesopotamian objects of antiquity: the Ennigaldi-Nanna’s Museum. Public museums began in Renaissance Italy, although many public museums of stature were not founded until the 18th century or later. These early museums maintained restricted entry to members of the public, who had to be given written permission to visit. The first modern public museum, the Asholean Museum at the University of Oxford, was founded in 1677 by a private collector. Since then, the modern museum has become a hybrid and amalgam of other societal institutions, including the cathedral, royal palace, theater, university, library, and retail store.
Museums And The Public And Societal Good
More than 55,000 museums can be found around the world—some in large cities, others in small cities or towns. The primary purpose of museums is public education, although some museums are also focused on research and conservation. At the top of the list of the most-visited museums in the world is the Louvre in Paris, with 9.72 million annual visitors in 2012. The top 20 museums (located mostly in the United States, London, and Paris) had a total attendance of 98.5 million people in 2012. The top 10 most visited art museums in the world are, after the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (6.12 million visitors); the British Museum, London (5.58 million visitors); the Tate Modern, London (5.30 million visitors); the National Gallery, London (5.16 million visitors); the Vatican Museums, Vatican City (5.06 million visitors); the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (4.36 million visitors); the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (4.2 million visitors); and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris (3.6 million visitors).
Museums had come to expect funding as a public good through the years, and so they did not design or assess with social impact in mind. Currently, they are still relatively weak in their social goal setting and methodologies. Yet one Internet-based Delphi survey found that museums build social capital, develop communities, and contribute to social change and public awareness.
Museums such as the Tate Modern and the Durban Art Gallery, for example, are participating in social change causes such as helping rehabilitate young offenders, reskilling long-term unemployed people, providing new enjoyment to the elderly, and working alongside disadvantaged minorities. Thus, museums provide a societal good because they both educate and enlighten the public.
In the United States, more Americans attend museum-related activities than all professional sporting events combined. Many thousands of people from around the world work as museum volunteers or museum friends. Since 1977, a day each year has been allocated as International Museum Day, sometime around May 18, and is coordinated by the International Council of Museums to provide an opportunity for the public to meet museum professionals. Museums are both trusted repositories of scholarship and showcases for collections, but they have also become places where people can explore diverse and controversial issues such as racism, sexism, and censorship. Visitors learn and may be stimulated to argue, debate, and think critically.
Museums And The Economy
The museums in the United States contribute $21 billion to the American economy each year and employ 400,000 Americans. Museums’ return on investment has averaged more than $7 in taxes for every $1 that the government appropriates. Museums also contribute to the economy and the social regeneration of industrial cities because corporations find that it is easier to recruit new personnel for cities that are also culturally alive. Some U.S. museums thrived during the economic downturn. Some, such as the historic houses, were particularly hard hit during the Great Recession. In most parts of the world, museums are supported by the national government.
Most museums in the United States are finding that they must become more entrepreneurial and adept at raising money themselves. They survive on a mix of federal, state, and local government funding; foundations; corporations; individual support; and investment income. Selling off valuable objects in their collections continues to be a controversial means with which some have generated needed funds. Museums may find additional revenue streams in admission fees, museum exhibitions, special outreach programs, gift shops, bookstores, restaurants, museum space rentals, loans of their artwork to other museums, or offsite museum shops. Economic value contributed by museums is also made possible through tourism, marketing, community development, quality of life, and museum merchandising. Increasingly, museums, like other nonprofits, are encouraged to run their operations as for-profit businesses. Museums are developing at a much more rapid rate in developing economies such as China (which has more than 3,000 museums, with many more being planned). These countries’ governments are concerned with the development of their national and cultural identity and wish to be seen in a culturally progressive light.
Assessing Museum Effectiveness
As concerns of contributions, easy accessibility, transparency, responsibility, relevance, economic and social impact, and museums’ financial sustainability in general surface, the task of museum assessment becomes more critical and requires more sophisticated, economic-minded thinking. Museum assessment is now given much more attention by both museums and their stakeholders, who have become more focused on demonstrable performance and tangible and quantifiable indicators. Museums must also do this to attract further funding and ongoing support from varied stakeholders, including foundations, the government, individual donors, and the public in general.
Museums are valuable custodians of trusted evidence (collections) and public heritage that is preserved and made accessible to current and future generations. This is done through museum collection value, aesthetic value, educational value, experience value, and economic value. Museums are always changing as they seek to meet the contemporary needs of their diverse constituents, including local communities. Boundaries between museum and community are becoming increasingly permeable and integrative of education, preservation, recreation, cultural heritage, and social change leadership. Museums are increasingly becoming inclusive “palaces for the people.”
- Brown, Carol, Elizabeth Wood, and Gabriela Inspiring Action: Museums and Social Change. Edinburgh, UK: MuseumsEtc., 2009.
- Carbonell, Bettina Messias. Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
- Rocco, Fiammetta. “Temples of Delight.” Economist (December 21, 2013).