museum


museum
/myooh zee"euhm/, n.
a building or place where works of art, scientific specimens, or other objects of permanent value are kept and displayed.
[1605-15; < L museum place sacred to the Muses, building devoted to learning or the arts (referring esp. to the scholarly institute founded in Alexandria about 280 B.C.) < Gk Mouseîon, equiv. to Moûs(a) MUSE + -eion suffix of place]

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I
Public institution dedicated to preserving and interpreting the primary tangible evidence of humans and their environment.

Types of museums include general (multidisciplinary) museums, natural-history museums, science and technology museums, history museums, and art museums. In Roman times the word referred to a place devoted to scholarly occupation (see Museum of Alexandria). The public museum as it is known today did not develop until the 17th–18th century. The first organized body to receive a private collection, erect a building to house it, and make it publicly available was the University of Oxford; the resulting Ashmolean Museum opened in 1683. The 18th century saw the opening of great museums such as the British Museum, Louvre, and Uffizi Gallery. By the early 19th century the granting of public access to formerly private collections had become common. What followed for the next 100 years was the worldwide founding of museums intended for the public. In the 20th century, museums have broadened their roles as educational facilities, sources of leisure activity, and information centres. Many sites of historical or scientific significance have been developed as museums. Museum attendance has increased greatly, often attracted by "blockbuster" exhibitions, though museums have had to become more financially resourceful due to constraints in public funding.
II
(as used in expressions)
Alexandria Museum of
Old Museum of Painting
Getty Museum J. Paul
Guggenheim Museum Solomon R.
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Hermitage museum

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▪ cultural institution
      institution dedicated to preserving and interpreting the primary tangible evidence of humankind and the environment. In its preserving of this primary evidence, the museum differs markedly from the library, with which it has often been compared, for the items housed in a museum are mainly unique and constitute the raw material of study and research. In the museum the object, in many cases removed in time, place, and circumstance from its original context, communicates itself directly to the viewer in a way not possible through other media. Museums have been founded for a variety of purposes: to serve as recreational facilities, scholarly venues, or educational resources; to contribute to the quality of life of the areas where they are situated; to attract tourism to a region; to promote civic pride or nationalistic endeavour; or even to transmit overtly ideological concepts. Given such a variety of purposes, museums reveal remarkable diversity in form, content, and even function. Yet, despite such diversity, they are bound by a common goal: the preservation and interpretation of some material aspect of society's cultural consciousness.

      Museums are discussed in many articles. For an account of the origins of museums and a review of their changing nature and definition over time, see museum, history of (museums, history of). For an overview of issues relevant to the practice of museum science, such as collection, documentation, and exhibition, see museum, operation of. For a discussion of the classification of museums and for descriptions of general museums, natural history and natural science museums, science and technology museums, history museums, and art museums, see museum, types of.

Geoffrey D. Lewis
 

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Universalium. 2010.