7 Pages


Museums began as human society’s equivalent of cultural memory banks. Through the years they have evolved into much more. Though the prime medium is tangible objects, the essential value of collections is the information contained in them and what it means to the global community. Other institutions deal in information also, but only museums uniquely collect, preserve, research, and publicly display objects as an essential function of their existence. In the later part of the twentieth century, museums have become multi-faceted, multipurposed, and multi-dimensional organizations. The era of the user-friendly resource is in full stride; the Information Age is upon us. Museums have had to adapt to this consumer-oriented world to compete with other, so-called “leisure-time” activities. Whether one agrees that leisure is a correct classification for former “temples of learning” is a matter of opinion. Regardless of one’s viewpoint, museums do exist as optional elements in the majority of the population’s daily lifestyles. As an option, museums must prove themselves worthy of the visitor’s attention and time. In the past few decades, museums have seen significant improvements in collection care and use, and in the fields of exhibition presentation and public programming. The level of knowledge about nearly every technical aspect of the museum field is expanding constantly. New fields and sub-disciplines are opening up and evolving. The museum of the next century may be very different from the ones we now know. However, one aspect has always been, remains, and will probably continue to be fundamental to the museum institutional identity: public exhibitions. The field of exhibition development and preparation is a complex and demanding one. Many subjects and disciplines are involved that must be mastered and their terminologies understood. Designers need a positive attitude toward and a creative ability for problem solving. They must have the desire to communicate ideas to others, a well-developed aesthetic sense, and considerable skills in writing, management, computer use, and interpretation. Increasingly, knowledge about audiences, traffic control, and educational goals is needed.