The word museum comes from the Greek mouseion, a temple dedicated to the Muses. Today a museum is a place set aside to house, protect and present artifacts for public study and inspiration. There are museums dedicated to virtually every facet of human ingenuity and natural wonder from the expected—fine arts, folk art and crafts, archeology, history, military and war, science, technology, children’s museums, and natural history—to the frankly weird. Examples include Las Vegas’ Liberace Museum, the Cheese Museum of the Netherlands and the Cockroach Hall of Fame found in Plano, Texas.  Botanical gardens and zoos can be considered varieties of living museums.

The first public museums opened in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, among them the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology in Oxford established in 1683, the Museo Sacro in the Vatican established 1756, and the British Museum, which opened to the public in 1759. These museums, though nominally public, were in reality only open to upper class individuals. The Louvre in Paris, founded in 1793 during the French Revolution, was the first truly public museum.

Articles About Museums

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