Today, there are as many different kinds of museums as the topics they explain or the items they display. Some are famous, such as the museums of the Smithsonian Institution; others are small establishments, known only locally.
Art museums are buildings where objects of aesthetic value are preserved and displayed.Art museums have a variety of functions, including acquiring, conserving, and exhibiting works of art; providing art education for the general public; and conducting art historical research.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, art museums have seen a number of trends, such as the expansion of large institutions and the creation of a horde of specialized museums, many of which are devoted to modern art. In contrast, a number of the world’s largest museums have begun to reduce their size and improve the quality of their collections. They accomplish this by selling less-important works of art in order to concentrate available funds on acquiring works of greater artistic merit or historical significance.
Art galleries are generally privately owned, and some are similar to specialized museums in which the collection is restricted to the works of a single artist. Art galleries can also focus on a specific historical period, category of art, or geographical region.
From acquiring collections and preserving them to explaining and displaying them, the dedicated professionals employed in history museums have the chance to work with every aspect of the relics and other forms of physical evidence of the past. History museums
can cover a particular period, such as Colonial America, or a particular topic, such as entertainment or advertising.
A history museum’s collection could be displayed in a modern building constructed specifically for that purpose, or the building itself, along with its contents, could be historical. Examples include the homes of famous people such as Paul Revere or Thomas Jefferson or historic structures such as lighthouses or old courthouses.
Living History Museums
A living history museum is a vibrant, active village, town, or city where the day-to-day life of a particular time period has been authentically re-created. The houses and public buildings are restored originals or thoroughly researched reproductions. Interiors
are outfitted with period furniture, cookware, bed linens, and tablecloths.
Employees known as character interpreters function as residents, wearing the clothing of the day and discussing their dreams and concerns with visitors as they go about their daily tasks. If you were to stop a costumed gentleman passing by and ask where the nearest McDonald’s is, he might direct you to a neighbor’s farm. He might even do so using the dialect of his home country.
Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia and Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts are just two examples of living history museums. These large enterprises offer employment for professional and entry-level workers in a wide variety of categories.
Natural History Museums
Natural history museums are dedicated to research, exhibition, and education in the natural sciences. Natural history museums vary in size and collections and could include all or some of the following departments: anthropology, astronomy, botany, entomology, fossil and living vertebrates, geology, herpetology and ichthyology, mammalogy, mineralogy, ornithology, and vertebrate paleontology.
Collections in natural history musuems may include artifacts from ancient civilizations, gems and jewels, fossils and skeletons, meteorites, and animals from around the world displayed in lifelike settings.
Science Museums and Discovery Centers
Science museums preserve and display objects that have been important to the development of science and technology. Science centers, or discovery centers, as they are sometimes called, generally teach the principles related to these fields and often involve visitors in hands-on activities, many catering particularly to children. The two types of science institutions are not mutually exclusive, although most fall into one category or the other.
Planetariums are structures, usually with domed ceilings, that are outfitted to give audiences the illusion of being outside under a starlit sky. Through the use of projectors, slides, movies, and computers, the locations of the planets and stars and all other sorts of astronomical activity can be demonstrated.
Planetariums are often part of a science museum complex, with most large cities now having full-scale facilities. They are used as tourist and educational attractions with elaborate space exhibits or public observational facilities. Smaller planetariums are also associated with universities and are used for classroom instruction in geography, navigation, and astronomy.
National monuments, such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, are operated by the National Park Service, which falls under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of the Interior. These federally funded museums offer a wide range of full-time and seasonal employment for interpretive rangers and other personnel.
Canada’s extensive national park system has nearly one thousand sites throughout the country. Sites such as the Carleton Martello Tower and Green Gables House are maintained and operated by Parks Canada.