Do Museums Matter?

I have recently finished the book Why the Museums Matter by Daniel Weiss. It got me thinking. Do they matter? Why should they?

Kate Lacivita

4/16/20233 min read

I had to read this article for a class recently and was asked to reflect on what I got out of it.

I have also been having to read the book Why The Museum Matters by Daniel H. Weiss, which is an interesting read (I’ve already finished the book), from the perspective of the director of the MET, on how museums run, how COVID-19 impacted these institutions, and where museums are headed in the future (both as physical buildings of congregation and their presence online).

Upon reflecting on this article, I posted this on my discussion board for class:

”The pandemic changed many things. It is interesting to see the importance people see in museums and galleries as fostering education, cultural preservation and a place of fostering curiosity. However, when we flip this around people also see museums and galleries as luxuries that we hold. I feel as though when we start seeing public, civic and educational buildings and spaces as luxuries, and not as necessities, we begin to see society step backwards in evolution, or in time. When the “fall of Rome” happened and the

Western World was in the transition of ruin and the Early Medieval period, culture stopped and society stepped back into survival, rather than moving forward. Culture, education, science, medicine and the perpetual inclination to live are all mixed in the same pot that is humanity and its survival.”

Museums—a place for healing, peace and comfort (What does that mean?)

Today I visited the Speed Museum’s website during class, as the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) had a case study in the article about the museum‘s focus on healing. As I clicked the site URL to open it, an automatic message popped up. Tragically, another shooting had happened yesterday (April 10th) in Kentucky, which is where this museum is located.

I thought the message was compelling for a few reasons. As I was going onto this museum’s webpage to see what it says about healing, it showed up before I needed to do anything else. Right in the message, it reads, “…we believe in the healing power of art…”

How great that this museum responded to quickly to its community to make sure they were taken care of in a time of need. It is hard to always pinpoint exact ways in which to help a struggling community during tragedy, but one such as this is a good example to follow. Free admission and a welcoming place that offers, “…healing activities and meditative tours…” in a building that is to provide everyone with a place to, “…experience the solace and calm art can provide as we mourn individually and as a community.”

Already, I am seeing a change in the way museums function and think about themselves as institutions and entities in the surrounding communities in which these places live in. I believe museums as a whole were gradually moving in this type of direction, but at a much, much slower pace than should be expected of “forward thinking” institutions. Covid-19 really ramped up the boards, trustees and directors to really consider what it was that they were trying to say to not only their immediate communities, but their larger communities abroad (and their online presence).

Truly, I think museums are vital the the function of a society. As much as how education of the majority of society was for the Enlightenment and progressions of science and medicine, museums help spark curiosity and artistic achievements and mentalities. They are not luxuries but something that needs to be accessible to all people of all classes and demographics. Just like learning your ABCs and 123s, museums should be a place that we go to early in life and often in life.

Accessibility is immensely important. I challenge the thought of what a “museum“ even is. I remember growing up and going to my public library almost daily. Aren’t libraries just a giant building showing hundreds of books on display (exhibiting?). It just happens to be a place we can touch the artifacts.

Even so, some of my earliest memories are going to science and natural history museums. Those are just as important as the traditional “white cube” museums.

I blame libraries and children’s museums as the spark of my creativity and wanting to pursue history, art and curatorial studies as a life long career. These places, I’m sure, have sparked the same for many, many others.

But, what are the right answers to creating these spaces into important and cultural places for the immediate surrounding communities that they supposedly serve? I hope, in time and through my exposure in the museum world and studies, I can come to some conclusions and be able to provide answers. As of now, I can only ponder and pose questions. However, that is where one begins the journey, isn’t it?