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Digging for Museum: A Discussion on the Public Role of Museums

Author:    Time:September-22-2020 16:40    Reading volume:567

“Museums hold our collective memory.” (Wells, 2013) Today, all the forms ofmuseums come from “art and science museums”. In the history of museums’development, the key role of museum has changed from private to public,which is at the same pace of the change of human society. This paper will sortout museums’ historical context and explore the causes of this change. Also,this paper will highlight the changing role of museums and figure out the corefunction of modern museums。

Museum phenomenon initially germinated in people's consciousness ofcollection.Four thousand years ago, the Egyptian and Mesopotamian rulersbegan to pay attention to finding and reserving treasures and wondrous things.


In fourth century BC, while Alexander the Great of Macedonia was in militaryoperations of building empire, he collected and plundered many valuable artworks and rare antiquities. Then he entrusted these treasures to his teacher Aristotle for studying.After Alexander's death, his subordinates Ptolemy Sotoestablished a new dynasty and continued to collect and preserve moretreasures. (Alexander & Alexander, 2008)Until the third century BC, Ptolemy

created a “mouseion” to collect cultural treasures in Alexandria which was acity of Egyptian. “Mouseion” means "a place devoted to the Muses, a place forthe study of special arts and sciences". ("Museum", n.d.) It is not only deemedto be the birthmark of museum in ancient form but also recognized as theearliest “museum” in human history.“Muse” is the goddess of art and science;Mouseion” is the temple of art and science where scholars engaged inscientific research work. It fully reflects the original intention and primitive

functions of building museums.


The sense of modern museums emerged in the late seventeenth century.Until 1683, Ashmolean Museum of the University of Oxford established. It wasthe first time to use “Museum” officially. Museums at that time were “treasurestore rooms” in order to save precious jewelry and other accessories. Thus,kinds of museums are originally come from “art and science museums”. I willfollow this trail for further analysis and research and focus on art and sciencemuseums that supported by governments that used to be traditional museums