What is a museum ?

You think you already know and this question doesn’t need an answer. Well are you sure you know exactly what is a museum? Especially an art museum?

Its general purpose known by all:


  • Preservation of artworks


When you start learning from your past you understand the present and the future better. And also it allows us to see how far we have come.

In museums you will find educators or docents, they are here to help you understand what you are seeing.

Funny story, they are called “médiateurs” in French, which litterally translates to people who do mediation. You know the people who solve conflicts. Well that is a good start for talking about contemporary art.

Anyways a contemporary artwork is the translation of an artist’s vision of our society. Sometimes you won’t need an explanation, sometimes you will and it is ok to ask for one. I often do myself. It never stops, you will always find a new artist with artworks you do not get at first and that, my friend, is also “the beauty” of it. Pun intended.

Museum is a place where to ask questions and get answers.


  • Organize temporary exhibitions


What soccer has to do with art?

In a museum you have the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions. Presented only during a few months you can see artworks from other countries, or themes that have not been worked on before.

These events are the result of research. Just like in a university. That is something museums do and audiences do not really consider.

You can pretty much find exhibitions about any subjects nowadays. If you are a sports fan did you know many artists are too? Especially soccer, with athletes being idolized it is an amazing source of inspiration for artists. Sports indeed are such a part of our popular culture and everyday life, it symbolizes so much for so many.

A little example, below is an artwork by artist Dario Escobar.


When looking at an artwork you can see many details (or not, that’s okay buddy). But whether it is the Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese or the White on White by Malevich there is an intention by the artist. Something to study and research on. That is also why there are curators which role is to connect different artworks, artists and subjects. What is a curator, you ask? Don’t worry we will cover that as well. Just in another article, so much to talk about!


  • A place for conversation.


Around the exhibitions (permanent and temporary) you have many events happening, conferences, round tables, artists meetings, etc.

These moments are for audiences to come together and exchange on many subjects. To agree and to disagree. Continuing on the sports theme, big events are an inspiration for museums as well. For the last Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston decided to enter a fun bet. The city of the defeated team had to lend a masterpiece to be shown in the winner’s city. How cool is that?

Below on the instagram post, on the right is John Singleton Copley’s Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis),(c. 1763) which is lended from Boston and shown right now in Philadelphia. The one on the right is Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky (1816) by Benjamin West. Which would have gone to Boston if the Eagles did not won the SuperBowl (Fly Eagles Fly !!).

You can read more of that story here.

It is time to drop this image of a dusty place when thinking of a museum. No matter the size or fame of the institution.

I live in Paris. Most people when they come to my city the first place they want to see (besides the Eiffel tower) is the Louvre. “Let’s go to the Pyramid” they say. First take down that selfie stick and then listen, the glass monument was added in the recent years (1989), the main building of the Louvre is the one surrounding the pyramid, the Palais du Louvre. Now that is out of the way, of course it is an amazing museum and you definitely should go see it. But there are amazing museums in Paris that deserve your attention as well. By the way the point of going to a museum is not to take a selfie with an artwork. (repeat this one with me please). Or if you do, please take just a few more seconds to look at it, without your phone, no talking. You will see you can learn so much by just looking.

When you go to the movies do you leave half-way through the movie? (I know sometimes you do, because it is very bad, but still). An artwork is telling a story you won’t get it in a split-second, it needs a little time. So take it.

And before thinking about going to the Louvre, or the most famous institution you can think of, on your next travel. Why not start now? There might be an amazing museum in your city, or nearby, that deserves your attention. Why don’t you go see for yourself?

Any museum surprised you before? You disagree with me and think museums are filled with dust/rats/(insert another cliché here) and do not deserve your time?

Prove your point in the comments!

3 thoughts on “What is a museum ?”

  1. I like very much your way of talking about what is a museum, your right to remind us there is always a museum around ! Thanks .

  2. Pingback: What is an art gallery? | My art bucket list

  3. Pingback: What is an art center? | My art bucket list

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