by • 29 Dec, 2010 • Inspiration, Thoughts about museumsComments (7)4987

What is a museum (as well)?

Museum Bikestand Sign
Photo by kberberi on (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ask anyone what a museum is and most people will come up with an answer including a building and paintings on the wall. Or old stuff in displays. A somewhat older post by New Curator on the function of museums stresses education, inspiration, conservation…

A museum can be so much more, especially for its visitors. The following list gives some of the many things I’ve seen museum be and used museums for over the last year. It’s by no means conclusive. Please add.

A museum is,

  • A flex work spot with Wi-Fi and good coffee.
  • The perfect spot to finally read James Joyce or any other challenging book.
  • A place to go on a first date.
  • A place to propose to your future spouse.
  • A place to organise your wedding.
  • Somewhere to dump your kids when you go shopping.
  • Somewhere to dump your husband/boyfriend when you go shopping (and need some time to decide on the right dress).
  • One of the schools in your life-long-learning ambition.
  • Somewhere to celebrate your birthday.
  • A free toilet (clean!).
  • A great shop for birthday and Christmas presents.
  • A meeting point and landmark.
  • The starting point to get to know a new culture. (My favourite: ask local students in the museum to give you a tour and tell you stuff. They usually like it and tell great, unpolished stories.)
  • A place to disconnect from work.
  • A place to see a movie.
  • The best bookstore in town for non-fiction.
  • A wonderful organisation to do a meaningful internship or volunteer work.
  • A place to challenge your opinions and ideas.
  • Somewhere to go with your dad and catch up.
  • A quiet place to do homework.
  • Somewhere to host a (business) meeting.
  • A place to get inspiration for the decoration of your house.
  • Somewhere to buy postcards to send around the world.
  • A place with lockers for stuff you don’t want to carry with you all day.
  • A place to meet new people.
  • Warm inside when it’s cold outside.
  • Cool inside when it’s hot outside.
  • Somewhere to kill the time between meetings when in a different city.
  • A venue to host a conference or debate.
  • A lunchroom.
  • An alternative to amusement parks.
  • A place to feel young again.
  • Somewhere to recharge your cell phone or laptop (usually there are sockets in the café).

If you’re working in a museum, the place can even be so much more! An incubator for social and cultural innovation, a tech lab, a university that pays you to do amazing discoveries… Aren’t we lucky to live in an age where museums are omnipresent?

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  • I think “dump the kids” is a highly appealing one that more museums (and libraries) should seriously explore. It’s always ironic (and depressing) to me that the same adults who now strictly ban lone kids in the galleries are ones who spent much of their childhood doing the same.

    Other things I would add to your list:
    -a place to mess around artistically or do an experiment
    -a place to talk about something you don’t usually talk about
    -a place to laugh at crazy things
    -a place to up your mysterious cool person quotient
    -a place to geek out

    And I would hope…
    -a place to pick up your farm share
    -a place to catch a concert and a drink after work
    -a place to tell your story
    -a place to make something with others
    -a place to get involved in something larger than yourself

  • Hi Nina, Great addition! Thanks:-) Growing up unfortunately often means forgetting what it means to be young (and creative, innovative, free). A wise man once told me that a real man never grows older than 18. Those who claim to be mentally older, make a huge mistake. This certainly applies to women as well, I think.

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  • Yes, yes, yes! Though this may be slanted toward an urban museum experience — where you may live nearby, or pass by regularly. It would be interesting to compare a list for a “destination” type museum where an effort must be made to visit.

  • I know your comment is old, Nina, but this blog post has recently been floating around in local museum social media spheres lately.

    I really resent that people “dump” their kids at “the” museum (specifically, I mind that they offload them at my institution).  We’ve got a bunch of brats that come in and hog the flight simulator so tourists (and tourists’ kids) don’t get a go at it and they’ve been damaging our aircraft collection!  The run around among a military aircraft collection (DANGEROUS) and make so much noise that a staff member who works adjacent to the display area thinks I’m stupid because I have no idea that dumb kids are making a nuisance of themselves.  I don’t want to ban kids but they’re just awful and they obviously need something more active to do than come here.  We are too short staffed, both in terms of personnel and volunteers, to babysit them.

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