Museum is the revival of past. The numbers of people who visit the museums across the globe are increasing by the day. It is true that museum is a big business opportunity with billions of tourists thronging the place day in and day out. Whether it is for education, technology or amusement, the traffic at the museums never comes down. You will be surprised to learn that over 850 million people visit museums annually. Museums are considered to be a nicety than an educational infrastructure. It is part of our community and it is bewildering to know that there are over 17,500 museums across the United States of America.
Despite the awareness created, the role of museums is not publicized. Museums are often termed as boring and undervalued. The huge numbers turning out at the museum is a proof that it is considered as a ‘memory of mankind’.
Human history dates back to thousands of years and the artifacts of the past are preserved at the museum to tell the story. It was the ancient Greeks who founded the term museum or mouseion during the first temple for Muses or goddesses who watched the arts and physical sciences. The temples of the Greeks were filled with scholars and sculptures. It was also a tradition for the kings to fill their palaces with the spoils of the war.
In America the inspiration came from the Kings of Europe. The Cabinet of Curiosities in Philadelphia developed by Charles Willson Peale was created to record the history unearthed in America. He was a collector and painter. He opened the first American museum in the year 1786. Here he showcased the portraits of George Washington, bones of woolly mammoth. Over the period museums sprang in inns, homes and other places.
Some of the collections of Peale and few others were exhibited by Phineas T Barnum in the year 1840. It was he who gave life to static curios by making them live curiosities. As historian Stephen Asma puts it, there were sober collections without any order. According to Asma, the curators did not have any scientific agenda. During this period Barnum was transforming museums into a carnival site. It was then that the US Congress received a bequest from James Smithson, an Englishman asking for establishing Smithsonian Institution.
It was then the Congress hired a scientist, who instead of displaying the objects conducted experiments and brought in explorers. The main interest of Smithsonian’s chief was scholarship.
In the case of Minneapolis natural history museum, the curators occasionally put the two headed calves or the eight legged frogs on display. People throng to the museum to watch these strange displays. Today these exhibits are educational. The museum gives them an opportunity to discuss about the genetic abnormalities.
Today the museum tools are turning out to be entertaining like the Exploratorium, cyber museums and the IMAX screens. Technology is turning out into an useful tool for the museums. The cost incurred in running a museum is very high and the fee collected at the entrance hardly helps in maintaining the center.