A museum is a place for displaying objects of many kinds, be they rare, unique, or simply something that stirs curiosity. In the beginning, museums merely collected strange items from far away land that one may never have the chance to visit. These collections bore no moral obligation or were governed regardless, but this did not stop people from indulging in their spectacle. These cabinets of curiosity also provided an opportunity for white individuals to exert power over what they viewed to be inferior cultures by collecting parts of their lives as token trinkets.  Over time, these curiosity cabinets’ practices have evolved into the kind of museums we see before us. Museums of all kinds are found across the world, many of them having specific specialties differentiating them from other museums in the area. For example, a natural history museum focuses on the natural world’s history where Herbaria displays specific fauna specimens. Modern museums are far more regulated in how they acquire collections and how they care for them. Many of the ill-gotten specimens from the early years of their collecting still reside in museums’ halls and their place there is still hotly debated. These days museums are more focused on preservation and informing their patrons through the contents of their collections, working very closely with the national parks service and local cultures to legally and ethically preserve items that are significant to the story of human history and development. Another role of a museum is to facilitate the restoration of items that may be in unfortunate shape if its ethical to do so.

 

Personally, Museums have always been fascinating to me. As a kid, I loved getting to see the strange things behind the glass. One experience in particular cemented museums as a magical place in my heart. When I was a child, a traveling exhibit of Star Wars props came to town, including interactive robots and all my favorite characters’ costumes. I remember being in absolute awe peering at all the sci-fi nerd treasures. As a slightly older child, I became insanely fascinated with the Indiana Jones series, with the eponymous protagonist, played by Harrison Ford, presenting the rudimentary ethics of preservation presented by the film. The Phrase “It belongs in a museum” may seem a bit unsophisticated these days. However, it instilled several opinions in my young mind; as a teenager, reading about Theodore Roosevelt further instilled preservationist ideals and provoked my love of all things old. In these years, I had collected a number of old record players, reel to reel tape players, and cassette players that I found fascinating. However, others found them pretty useless in the age of the iPod. All the while trips to the museum would continue to be a lovely treat until this unfortunate global pandemic.  Regardless the museum remains a staple of my leisure time as I have been enjoying the many virtual tours now available, my favorite of which has to be the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Pictured: the Pergamon Museum


What kind of events led to your interest in museums?

 

One Thought to “What is a Museum?”

  1. Angela Linn

    Thanks for your post Dylan. One of my earliest memories of a museum was when I got to see the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum in 1977. I was only 6 years old at the time but I still remember going into a dark gallery with spotlights on the gleaming gold sarcophagi – amazing and exciting! Definitely made an impression. Here’s the Field Museum’s Bulletin from 1977: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/6192051#page/61/mode/1up

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