Why museums still matter

Human Rights Museum of Santiago, Chile


Our interest for museums fluctuated a lot in the past century. Their role was one of education, entertainment, and artistic discovery.  Then came computers, the internet, and social media, which made museums as something of the past.  The museums’ dark age of the 90’s threatened their very survival.  But a few brave souls knocked their fist on the table; they were set to bring about change and make museums trendy again. 

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The first generations of museums

Museums have, historically, been great tools for education. They are popular choices for school field trips and family weekend gateways. They provide endless information and educative tools which schools and universities can’t have. All museums create family-friendly activities — hands-on workshops, children exhibit, movies — which easily engage children and parents alike. Large institutions start developing kids museums in metropoles which are as fun for children as they are for adults.

Museums provide unlimited inspiration for aspiring artists. Since antiquity, artists learned by copying the masterpieces of their time. A photographer friend told me that’s how he learned composition. People of all ages and of all artistic aspirations go to museums to study and find ideas. Even to this day, despite the Internet, despite digital creative tools, art students go there to sketch. A rare few have an epiphany and idea for the next big thing. If it were not for museums — in our technological world, still — many artists would be artless; many museums would be empty.

Dynamic museums, platforms for change

To remain relevant — and inevitable tools for change — curators create “dynamic” exhibits. They transform the learning experience into something fun and approachable. 3-D architectural models; life-size mannequins in period clothing; wall-projected animations; interactive games come together in unique learning platforms. Dynamic exhibits are becoming a trend (in Asian countries) and do very well with Millennials. As Benjamin Franklin said: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” It was about time we involve visitors!

Museum art workshops leave an indelible creative mark on people. A recent study shows that who attended workshops as kids are more likely to attend art events or practice art themselves. Because what we learn when we’re young — and what we’re exposed to — never fades away. And a passion for the arts is passed down through generations. I realized through my world travels that a country without art is a country without culture. And culture is what moves people in multiple directions and, more importantly, forward.

Unbeknownst to many of us, museums are great platforms for social change. Artists react to world news swiftly. They put their voice and discontent in paintings, installations, and photographs. And their art and message gets Twitted and shared a thousand times. Thanks to Social Media, art is no longer only contained within the four walls of a museum. Thanks to modern art museums, nature, social and political activists have a voice. We no longer go to a museum to just look; we go to engage in conversations.

the museum is a school

Museums reaching out, far

The mission of a museum, historically, has been to educate the public and serve communities. Through traditional educational and outreach programs, museums bring people to culture; through progressive programs, culture can be spread far and wide. It’s possible for museums to reach people who can’t reach museums, to break down the barrier of attendance and to give everyone a chance to learn about the world.

Museums do still matter. They matter for domestic and international visitors alike. For locals, a museum is a permanent walk-in, three dimensional encyclopedia — a cornucopia of peace and inspiration. For tourists, a museum is something 100 times better than a guide book; it is where they learn about the country and have a first genuine interaction with its inhabitants.

What about you?

Knock your fist on the table! Help bring change and maintain the historical significance of our museums. Don’t be shy letting your entourage know of upcoming exhibits, even radical ones; Engage in meaningful conversations about a topic explained in a museum; Volunteer your time behind an information desk or as a docent; Divert the conversations on social media to something substantial and with potential for change.

Look back in the past. How many people are needed to bring about change? A few, with powerful voices. Be one of them.

Photography by photographer/designer Carolina Cabanillas

Good to see you! I'm Yvette, founder & editor at Museologue. This place serves you stories on cool careers, bold life choices, mind buzzing art, personal leadership, travel, and all the other inspiring things people do and create!
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