What is a museum?
A museum is a place that uses different types of objects, media, and stories to explain and celebrate the natural, social, and cultural world. People can see and learn from a museum’s assets by visiting in person or online.
There are many different types of museums, including: history museums, art museums or galleries, natural history museums, science centers, children’s museums, historic house museums, botanic gardens, zoos, and aquaria. Some museums are housed in historic places. The building itself helps tell the story of the place.
Museums safeguard our history and inform our present and future by taking care of their collections and sharing stories of human journeys.
Museum exhibitions might display a collection of objects or assets focusing on a theme, an idea, a person, or a question. You can also find online exhibitions on a museum’s website, where you might explore images, read stories, and find answers to any questions about an object or artifact.
Museum programs serve learners of all ages, including seniors and audiences with special needs. Some programs are specific to groups of people, and other types of events offer a space for community conversation and celebration. A program at a history museum might teach us about the past and help inform discussion of current issues. Exploring living collections through a public event at a zoo helps us realize the importance of conservation. Many museums offer STEM programs, makerspaces, or learning labs for hands-on learning. Museums also play a huge role in training teachers and providing them with resources to inspire students.
Who works at a museum?
Actors and performers help deliver public programs at a museum. They are often on staff at history museums.
Administrators look after the business side of a museum. They manage the budget, help hire staff to run the museum, and make sure day-to-day operations run smoothly.
Archivists maintain records on the history of the museum’s objects and the museum itself. They keep track of any relevant documents or files related to the museum’s history and work.
Conservators take care of the museum’s objects. They preserve and repair any damage that has been done to an object or artifact. Often they restore an object so that it looks how it did when it was first made.
Curators are responsible for managing and overseeing the objects in a museum’s collection. They often put together exhibitions and spend time researching and learning more about the objects in their museum.
Designers might create a plan for an exhibition, come up with a layout of a brochure, or even develop plans for how the museum will look as a whole. Some museums have architects, horticulturists, and web designers on staff as well.
Educators help teach museum visitors about the objects they see. An educator might lead you on a tour of an exhibition or write a guide for you to use while you explore the museum.
Facility managers are in charge of making sure the museum is an enjoyable and safe space to visit. This includes security staff, custodians and janitors, labor and utilities work, restaurant and hospitality staff, and building maintenance and management.
Fundraisers help raise money to manage the museum, to collect new objects, and to put on programs and events. Registrars manage museum collections. They know the location of every object, make sure the objects are cared for, and manage the logistics of moving them within the museum or to another museum as a loan.