museums


museums
Many people have a hobby that involves collecting things, e.g. stamps, postcards or antiques. In the 18th and 19th centuries wealthy people travelled and collected plants, animal skins, historical objects and works of art. They kept their collection at home until it got too big or until they died, and then it was given to a museum. The 80 000 objects collected by Sir Hans Sloane, for example, formed the core collection of the British Museum which opened in 1759.
  The parts of a museum open to the public are called galleries or rooms. Often, only a small proportion of a museum’s collection is on display. Most of it is stored away or used for research. A person in charge of a department of a museum is called a keeper. Museum staff involved in the care and conservation of items are sometimes called curators.
  Many museums are lively places and they attract a lot of visitors. As well as looking at exhibits, visitors can play with computer simulations and imagine themselves living at a different time in history or walking through a rainforest. At the Jorvik Centre in York, the city’s Viking settlement is recreated, and people experience the sights, sounds and smells of the old town. Historical accuracy is important but so also is entertainment. Museums must compete for people’s leisure time and money with other amusements. Most museums also welcome school groups and arrange special activities for children.
  In Britain, the largest museums are the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Museums outside London also cover every subject and period. Homes of famous people sometimes become museums, such as the house where Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon.
  The first public museum in the US was the Charlestown Museum in South Carolina, founded in 1773. The largest is the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, a group of 14 museums. The most popular of these is the National Air and Space Museum. Some US museums are art museums. Many describe a period of history. In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for example, a museum explains the Civil War and gives details of the battle of Gettysburg. Halls of Fame are museums that honour people who have been outstanding in a certain field, e.g. baseball or rock music.
  National museums receive money from the government but not enough to cover their costs. Museums usually have a shop selling books, postcards and gifts, and often a café. Their profits help to fund the museum. Some museums have the support of a commercial sponsor. In small museums only a few people have paid jobs, and the rest are volunteers, called docents in the US, who lead tours and answer visitors’ questions.

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▪ 1995

      Once again in 1994 France seemed to dominate new museum developments in Europe. The official opening of the Grand Louvre at the end of 1993 was quickly followed by the inauguration of a parallel commercial development, the Carrousel du Louvre. Architect I.M. Pei wittily created a mirror image of his glass "pyramid" descending from the ground level into an elegant underground multipurpose mall. Revenue from the development was to be retained for the benefit of the museum. London museums were considering a similar plan. The £100 million project announced in July for the remodeling of the British Museum after the British Library moved to its new site at St. Pancras, London (see Libraries ), was more traditional but called for a restoration of the great courtyard and retention of the famous circular reading room. The new Crown Jewels museum within the historic Tower of London included a travolator floor in front of the main display enabling the museum supervisor to control the viewing time of visitors. Madrid's Prado Museum, celebrating its 175th anniversary in 1994, also named a new director, José María Luzón Nogué, a university professor.

      The Federal Museum of Contemporary German History opened amid controversy about both its Bonn location and its alleged bias against the former East Germany. An even greater outcry was heard over the opening of the new wing at the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. The emphasis of the museum shifted from presenting the Japanese as victims of the horrific first act of atomic warfare to drawing attention to Japanese militarism, Hiroshima's important role in the munitions industry, and the use of slave labour in the arms factories. Ironically, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., also drew fire from veterans groups and some members of Congress over plans to exhibit portions of the Enola Gay, the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, in its National Air and Space Museum.

      World War II in Europe surfaced again as further admissions were made in Russia—including from St. Petersburg's famed Hermitage—concerning the whereabouts of long-lost museum collections seized in Germany in 1945. The Hermitage had other problems as well, as it was reportedly struggling with claims from former republics of the U.S.S.R., the Russian Orthodox Church, and even the Russian government itself, which, some feared, might be eyeing art treasures as an easy source of foreign exchange. A major new study, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by Lynn H. Nicholas, included details about the intention of the U.S. Department of State and some leading U.S. museums in the late 1940s to acquire paintings from German museums as war reparations—a timely reminder that Joseph Stalin was not alone in coveting German collections.

      It became clear that the national museum in Kabul, Afghanistan, had been looted of many outstanding archaeological artifacts and antiquities over recent years. Large-scale losses were reported at the 9th-15th century Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia (a World Heritage List site), while the whole of the rich historic jewelry collection and many world-class antiquities were found to be missing from the national museum in Phnom Penh, reportedly sold by or with connivance of the former Pol Pot regime.

      Large-scale museum losses in Africa led to a conference in Bamako, Mali, of the International Council of Museums. The conference recommended the establishment in each country of an interagency authority for the rapid international dissemination of information about stolen cultural property. More conventional art crime in 1994 included the theft of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's most famous work, The Scream, from the Oslo National Gallery on the eve of the Winter Olympics; the painting was eventually recovered. A burglary of the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm later in the year seemed to follow an increasingly common pattern of "made-to-order" thefts of works of art.

      Ground was broken on a number of large-scale museum projects around the world, including the long-planned National Museum in Wellington, N.Z., and two major new national science museums, one as part of the "Technopolis" development near Bangkok, Thailand, and another at "Science City" on the outskirts of Calcutta.

      Government grants and private philanthropy supported U.S. museums handsomely in 1994. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art signed a 99-year contract with the county guaranteeing its funding at $14.2 million yearly; the museum itself had to provide matching funds for 80% of this public allocation. The museum also announced a large-scale expansion and launched a $5 million bond issue to fund a new sculpture garden. The Wight Art Gallery and the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts of the University of California at Los Angeles were to merge with, and move into the facilities of, the former Armand Hammer Museum. The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art closed its original La Jolla facility for expansion, California State University at Long Beach planned to build a new museum facility, and the Newport Harbor Art Museum decided to double its gallery space.

      In Pittsburgh, Pa., the Andy Warhol Museum was launched with 500 of its 3,000-work collection on display. The Carnegie Institution raised $15 million for the museum, which rekindled controversy about the question of Warhol's importance in American art. Few questioned the importance of the National Museum of the American Indian, which debuted in the old Customs House in lower Manhattan in October. Plans called for construction of a permanent home for the one million-item collection in Washington, D.C., by the year 2001.

      The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City opened two grand galleries: the Greek and Roman collections, through the gift of Robert and Renee Belfer, and its first permanent galleries given to Indian and Southeast Asian art, through a gift of Florence and Herbert Irving. The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Museum received the largest gift in its history, $5 million, from Morris A. Schapiro in honour of his brother, the well-known art historian Meyer Schapiro. New York City's Guggenheim Museum received two large gifts—$10 million from Ronald O. Perelman, with which the museum launched a $100 million capital campaign, and possibly as much as $10 million from Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak. Having lost the sponsorship of the Guggenheim, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams was reconstituted as a complex to support dance, music, theatre, and educational activities. The Detroit (Mich.) Institute of Arts completed its $24 million fund-raising drive. The Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund continued to award large grants to various institutions, including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minn.; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Hampton (Va.) University Museum.

      Challenge grants from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, which required matching funds in the ratio of 3:1 from the institutions themselves, were awarded to the Cincinnati (Ohio) Art Museum, the Jewish Museum in New York City, and the San Jose (Calif.) Museum of Art. The U.S. National Archives began a three-year move to a new satellite site on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park.

      For the first time in its history, the Smithsonian Institution chose a nonscientist as its director; I. Michael Heyman (see BIOGRAPHIES (Heyman, I. Michael )), a lawyer and management expert, replaced retiring Robert McC. Adams.

      (PATRICK J. BOYLAN; JOSHUA KIND)

      See also Art (Art Exhibitions ); Auctions and Collections .

      This updates the article museum.

▪ 1994

      The destruction and damage of museums, monuments, and historic zones in armed conflicts and terrorist attacks continued into 1993. The Olympic Village museum of sport in the hills above Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, was burned to the ground by withdrawing Serb forces. In November the 16th-century bridge at Mostar, long a symbol of peaceful multiculturalism in the Bosnian city, was destroyed by Croat shelling. In Croatia proper, significant progress was made in reopening collections damaged in the fighting, although a comprehensive review published in September 1993 reported the loss of over 40 of the republic's museums. An even more alarming development was the apparently motiveless attack on one of the world's oldest and greatest art museums, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which was more than 400 years old. On May 27, a powerful car bomb exploded without warning in a parking area immediately to the rear of the main building, causing extensive damage to the structure and collections, although only three works were totally lost. Unesco moved to strengthen relevant international law on destruction of cultural objects and published a major study on the problem in September.

      The fate of collections lost in World War II suddenly became an issue again during 1993. In the West much of the cultural property looted by the Nazis from occupied countries had been returned as part of the postwar peace process, but the same was not true for the former Eastern bloc, and many unanswered questions remained. Improving relations between East and West led to announcements by the Russian Ministry of Culture that more than 60% of the Franz Koenigs collection of outstanding Old Master drawings seized by the Nazis from the Boymans Museum in Rotterdam, Neth., were safe in Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. The Pushkin also held, apparently intact, the 8,000 archaeological objects and an estimated 60,000 documents and letters of Heinrich Schliemann, the controversial 19th-century excavator of Troy, that had been missing from the Berlin Museum since 1945. Both Germany and Turkey filed claims to the collection. At the same time, Russia was demanding that Western governments investigate the fate of the estimated 200,000 items looted from the former Soviet Union by Nazi Germany, including Peter the Great's "Amber Room" from the Imperial Summer Palace.

      After several years of worldwide recession, the pace of creating and building new museums was declining, and many institutions seemed to be having difficulty keeping afloat. In Great Britain, for example, the entries in the annual Museums Association Yearbook showed that, probably for the first time since 1945, more museums closed than opened. Several U.S. museums experienced financial difficulties; a near-million-dollar deficit at the Cleveland (Ohio) Museum of Art and a $3.5 million cutback in county funding at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art forced the end of several planned exhibitions and services and necessitated staff cuts. A nationwide study in 1988-91 by the Business Committee for the Arts showed that corporate patronage had dropped by 18% from its 1988 level. This trend was apparent in 1993 when the IBM Corp. announced that it would close its IBM Gallery of Science and Art after 10 years of operation in that company's New York City headquarters.

      Still, a number of significant new museum projects and building programs came to fruition. The Dallas (Texas) Museum of Art opened its new Nancy and Jake Harmon Building to focus on the arts of the Americas, an unusual attempt to juxtapose European-influenced North American art and pre-contact Central and South American objects. The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., opened a new addition to its 1919 beaux arts museum. The Birmingham (Ala.) Museum of Art became the largest municipal museum in the Southeast when it reopened after a two-year closure for expansion.

      Other notable gallery opening or reopening events in the U.S. included the new Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.; significant expansion of the New Orleans (La.) Museum of Art; the new medieval galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the redesigned west wing of the Brooklyn Museum; new gallery space and a restoration of the 1886 Romanesque Great Hall at the Cincinnati (Ohio) Art Museum; renovation of the Denver (Colo.) Art Museum in honour of its centennial; the new Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota; nine new galleries at the Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University; and the renovated David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago.

      The most important museum opening in 1993, however, was certainly that of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; ceremonies in April were led by Pres. Bill Clinton, with Jewish leaders from around the world and many European heads of state and government in attendance. The striking museum building, which cost $168 million to construct, was financed by private donations and built on land donated by the federal government near the Mall, Washington's main museum area. The exhibits constitute the largest collection in the Western Hemisphere of materials pertaining to the Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews. By year's end more than one million visitors had crowded into the museum, and officials took the unusual step of requesting people to postpone their visits if possible. (See Judaism (Religion ).) A smaller Holocaust memorial museum opened in Los Angeles earlier in the year.

      In New York City the Jewish Museum reopened on its 100th anniversary and significantly expanded its gallery space. The former Center for African Art changed its name to the Museum for African Art and opened a new facility in lower Manhattan. In nearby Hartford, Conn., the Wadsworth Atheneum opened the Fleet Gallery, the first permanent space in any mainstream U.S. gallery devoted to African-American art. The Freer Gallery of Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., reopened after a 4 1/2-year refurbishing that added much new storage and gallery space, including a new underground gallery linking the Freer to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian's other Asian art museum, which itself received an anonymous $2.8 million benefaction in 1993. A new Sackler museum was also opened in Beijing (Peking) in May.

      In Europe the museum event of the year was the relaunching in November, to mark its bicentennial, of one of the continent's oldest, the Louvre Museum in Paris. The large area of underground circulation and public service areas, with architect I.M. Pei's controversial glass pyramid over the new public entrance, now linked the old familiar (now extensively refurbished) museum; the restored Richelieu wing; the remains of the medieval castle; and completely new underground museum, commercial (e.g., fashion industry), and public parking facilities. Elsewhere in Paris, the Grand Palais was closed in November for repairs.

      The revolutionary management structure for French national museums devised by former culture minister Jack Lang also evoked much interest. A new semipublic body, the Etablissement du Musée du Louvre, was created to take over the museum's assets and manage all types of income generated by them. The body was directed by an administrative council and headed by an executive president, a professionally trained curator who combined the traditionally distinct roles of director and chairman of the board of trustees. Similar changes were made at other national museums in Paris, including the Orsay Museum and the Pompidou Centre.

      Innovation elsewhere was generally on a more modest scale: a new national maritime museum in Auckland, N.Z.; the challenging St. Mungo Museum of Religions in Glasgow, Scotland, a city long known for its deep sectarian divisions; and the remarkable Casa de Pontal museum in Rio de Janeiro, a private initiative by the creator of its unique collection of Brazilian popular folk art.

      Museums also continued to innovate in their approaches to their public missions and to intermuseum cooperation. One remarkable example was the national project "Quest for a Swedish History," possibly the most ambitious coordinated investigation and presentation of history ever attempted by a nation's museums, launched in May 1993. Involving both the State Historical Museum and the nearby Nordic Museum in Stockholm as well as more than 40 regional and local museums throughout the country, the project aimed to rediscover the history of the nation and communicate it to the whole of the population. Another unprecedented partnership was formed between the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and the San Jose (Calif.) Museum of Art. Usually able to display only about 3% of its holdings, the Whitney would now send portions of its collections for display in the new wing of the San Jose Museum.

      In the United States the new administration, with apparent bipartisan support, proposed to reinstate the tax break for donations to museums to allow the current market value of the art work to be the basis for calculating its value for tax purposes. Since 1986 such donations had been evaluated at their original purchase price.

      (PATRICK J. BOYLAND; JOSHUA B. KIND)

      See also Art Exhibitions and Art Sales .

      This updates the article museum.

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Universalium. 2010.

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