chapter  2
The Intangible Roots of Our Tangible Heritage: Adrian Norris
Pages 27

Communicating the intangible as well as presenting the tangible is part of the work of museums. Early explorers, writers, scientists and collectors all in their own way tried to explain the natural world to their peers. Mythology accompanied artifacts brought back from exotic lands, with mysterious objects being displayed in cabinets of curiosities. These early forerunners grew into the global family of museums to which so much of our heritage is entrusted. A large part of the museums’ reason for being was, and is, to exhibit and explain to a culturally diverse audience the intangible aspects of our planet. However as they developed, museums did not always fulfi ll that purpose. Poor collecting and documentation practices, as well as a lack of understanding of other cultures’ beliefs and knowledge, sometimes placed barriers between peoples’ differing cultural values. Financial constraints restricted how these growing collections developed and rising costs sometimes resulted in the destruction and dispersal of collected material without reference to its worldwide cultural value.