What is the Intent of a Museum
Museums are probably one of the richest cultural resources. The intent of the contemporary museums is to accumulate, conserve, infer, and showcase artefacts of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific significance to disseminate information to the public at large. The purpose of the museum also depend on the point of view of the observer or visitors. When the visitor is a family looking for an enlightening and fun way to spend the day, a local history museum or a city art museum can be the destination. A robust museum community is indicative of great economic health of the city hence to the people who assume political responsibilities of the city see it as an economic gauge and also as a means to raise the cultural quotient of the residents of the city. The museums have a clear intent and focus, hence to a museology professional, a museum is a means to disseminate knowledge and information about the museum’s mission to the largest audience possible. But above all, a museum is a storehouse of information largely with a focus to raise awareness and diffuse knowledge to the general public.
In the late 19th century the museums of natural history embodied the Victorian aspiration for consumption and for systemized structure. The intent of these museums was to accumulate all samples of each category of a particular field of study for deeper research and to showcase them in the best manner possible. In the 19th century with a rise in the number and quality of American college education, the colleges developed their own collections of natural history as museums to help their students learn. It was in the last quarter of the last quarter of the 19th century that scientific research shifted to a micro level with emphasis on cellular study and the learning moved to state of the art research laboratories. Even today many reputed museums are respected as research centers, but that is not the main intent of museums. Though there have been many interpretations and views about the intent and purpose of the museum, but the prime mission has always been to protect and preserve objects of significance today for the future generations to refer and take a peek in the history. Extreme care, skill, proficiency and expenses are invested to preserve and slow down the natural deterioration in the condition of these ancient documents, relics, works of art, and even buildings. The museums in general have a focus on showcasing objects of a cultural inclination and significance.
From the point of view of the museum itself the intent of the institution is seen to vary greatly. While some favor education over conservation, there still are some that go the other way round. The Canada Science and Technology Museum, for example favored education by not only showcasing the objects but their functions too. Preservation of the historic objects was secondary as one of the staff members would use a historic printing press, which was an exhibit to print out some memorabilia for the visitors. There are those museums that intend to reach the widest audience possible while there are some that have a very narrow and specific audience or target. In a very generic interpretation, we may say that museums accumulate relevant artefacts or objects for preservation and display. Most of these museums do not allow any form of physical contact with the artefacts as a measure to conserve them in their original fragile condition. However, there are some that have a more interactive and hand-on approach. The Hampton Court Palace for example created replicas of their 500 year old artefacts and encouraged the visitors to immerse themselves in the lifestyle and the glorious era of the Tudor.