Thursday, October 4, 2018

Museums? When and Where Did They Start.

Mona Lisa Painting Art Leonardo Da Vinci A  When was the last time you visited a museum?  Was it an art museum such as the Louvre or the Guggenheim? Or did you get to wander through one of the numerous Museums of Science and Technology?

The last museum, I wandered through was the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.  I went because they had a visiting dinosaur exhibit but they also had a kids section and a section filled with Polynesian artifacts. I spent a whole day there and had a blast.

Have you ever wondered how long museums have been around? When did they start?  For most of us, they were always around.  I remember seeing those museums at small hole in the road places you'd stop for gas when traveling cross country.  It might house arrowheads or old animal skeletons but they attracted people.  There is even one in London devoted to death and medicine which I saw with a friend who made a promise to a dying man.

The word Museum came from a Latin word that evolved from the Greek word for Muses. Since Museums are places where items are cared for and displayed so the concept has been around for a very long time, at least since the Sixth century when a Babylonian Princess collected and curated items from Mesopotamia.    This collection was discovered in 1925 by an archeologist who noted that items had notes of where they were from.  This is thought to be the first real museum.

From then on, museums existed but in reality the collections belonged the royalty or the rich who kept them private, never to be seen by the average man.  Eventually, families began donating these collections to the state but the first "public" museum appeared in 1683 when John Tradescant opened his "Curiosity Cabinet".  He built the first building dedicated strictly to art.  It was another 50 years or so before governments began building public museums.

The British Museum began in 1759 while the Louvre opened in 1793.  The Louvre opened due to a degree by the ruling government during the French Revolution as a place to show the artwork confiscated from the wealthy.  Even after the revolution was over, Napoleon continued donating artworks he acquired during his conquests.

Historians consider the 19th century - "The Age of Museums" because museums sprang up all over the world including the Vatican who opened the doors to many of the artworks in their collections.  Soon the common man had access to artwork they'd never had a chance to see.  Over the years, they've expanded to the point of offering educational programs for schools.  I took advantage of one where my students learned about the Egyptians and thirds.  It was awesome.

I hope you enjoyed reading this short history of museums.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day. 

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