How is a natural history museum different from other museum types?

I think that one major way that Natural History Museums are different from other museum types is in what these museums offer. In a weird kind of way, I think of Natural History Museums as the “final boss” of museums. Many other museums usually focus in a certain area or field. Some museums are subject based, like a maritime museum, or MOPOP, which is dedicated to pop culture. Other museums like the Anchorage Museum or UAFMN, do have a larger range in their collections, but are based in Alaska and things relating to Alaska. So, these museums are either very subject based and specific, or are dedicated to a certain area, culture, or region. However, with Natural History Museums, they cover like, every category that has to deal with natural things, hence the name Natural History. These subjects range in every category that deals with all things natural, like paleontology, botany, geology, the weather, people and more. Sure, some other museums that are local may share some of the same qualities with Natural History Museums, but I personally think that the thing that sets them apart from each other is the size and range at which each museum covers. Natural History Museums will have things in their wide collection from all over the world, and it’s more a focus on each category as a whole, than like with smaller regional museums, that might fit more with how each category fits into a region (if that makes any sense). Natural History Museums will also have extensive objects that are related to humans, human culture, and evolution, as opposed to a smaller regional museum that focuses more on the people’s that inhabit that specific area.

Question: What type of museum do you prefer visiting and why?

“Hope” the Blue Whale British Natural History Museum

3 Thoughts to “Natural History Museums VS Others”

  1. Kai Doak

    Culturally specific museums/ Cultural Centers/ Native American Museums are my favorite to visit when traveling. I love learning about different people’s history and what makes everyone so diverse and unique. Plus, you can get a different perspective on interactions between people which is super important in having representation!
    I loved reading your post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hannah Terwilliger

    I totally agree with you about how vast Natural History Museums have in collections compared to other museums. Great post!
    I prefer visiting History Museums, Archeology Museums, and heritage centers. Something that related to people in general and how one can relate to that type of history and culture.

  3. Angela Linn

    Thanks for your take on natural history museums. I wanted to address your discussion of the breadth of the subject matter – while certainly there are many encyclopedic natural history museums, in my experience you can definitely have single-subject museums that are centered on natural history topics. An awesome single-subject natural history museum I enjoyed visiting in high school was the Mines Museum of Earth Science at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado ( While definitely what could be considered a smaller, regionally-focused museum, the collection represents systematic collecting and serves as a state repository as well.

    As Kai describes in their post for this module, the inclusion of humans and the evolution of human cultures is a bit of a controversial subject for natural history museums and is now being handled in a significantly different way in modern times. Many of these old exhibits are being re-interpreted and that interpretation is being led by the members of those cultures as a demonstration of self-determination. It’s worth keeping an eye out for how natural history museums around the world handle the topic of humans in their galleries.

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