Tools for understanding museums

Millions visit museums every year. Why do we do it?

Beginner's guide

The powerful and privileged have hoarded precious artifacts in museums for centuries, and it's only recently that these treasures were made available to the rest of us. What purpose did museums serve? And why does every city have one today?

videos + essays

The word “museum” comes from the nine Muses, the classical Greek goddesses of inspiration.

1. A brief history of the art museum
1. A brief history of the art museum

How did cabinets of curiosities become temples to the Enlightenment? Explore the fascinating history of museums.

2. Museums and politics: the Louvre, Paris
2. Museums and politics: the Louvre, Paris

Art museums and politics have a long and complex relationship; nowhere is this more apparent than the Louvre.

3. Art Museums and (Art) Objects
3. Art Museums and (Art) Objects

"It is to kill art to make history of it" — the neutralizing effect of the art museum.

4. Artists in and against the museum
4. Artists in and against the museum

Just as museums have nurtured artistic creativity, they have also become the target of serious critique from artists themselves.

5. The changing social functions of art museums
5. The changing social functions of art museums

From privately owned collections to blockbuster exhibitions for the public, museums continue to evolve.

6. Looking at Art Museums
6. Looking at Art Museums

Far from being neutral, museum are deeply rooted in a thicket of political, sociological, and ideological histories.

Remake the Met
Remake the Met

The Met Museum in New York is filled with masterpieces of human creativity, but is there a better way to organize what's inside?

The case for museums
The case for museums

Museums are more than collections that once belonged to the rich—they can help us understand our history.

How museums shape meaning
How museums shape meaning

The architecture of museums has long been used to shape national identity, and to frame collective memory.

Selected Contributors

Special thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Rodini