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2008 | 49 | 200-203

Article title

THE MUSEUM: DEFINITION AND CONCEPT. WHAT IS THE MUSUM TODAY? (Definicja i pojęcie, czym jest muzeum dzisiaj?)


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The titular question appears to be simple, especially considering that for more than 200 years of the existence of museum institutions and more than 2 000 years of collections, the 'ontogenesis' of the museum had been described by multiple authors. Among the myriad definitions of the museum, some, constantly evolving, have been introduced into dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Contemporary museum studies as a rule chose the concept formulated by Georges Henri Riviere, who claimed that the Museum is a permanent and non-profit institution, serving society and its development, available to the public and involved in conducting studies on the testimony of human activity and man's environment, that it amasses, conserves and protects collections, renders them accessible and features them, as well as carries out educational undertakings and entertains. ICOM and the Polish Statue on museums repeat the general outline of this definition, although it is quite apparently already part of the history of the ideas of the nineteenth and twentieth century. The electronic revolution, accepted so naturally and without any resistance all over the world, has provided instruments for an, for all purposes, unlimited gathering of data: images, documents, programmes, and all sorts of records. That which in the past was regarded as a specific function fulfilled by museums, libraries and archives, and at the same time comprised the prime purpose of their existence - COLLECTING AND STORAGE - has in the recent years become the domain of millions (if not billions) of users. Potentially, each larger electronic database is a virtual museum or archive of some sort of a domain, and this deprivation of the 'exceptionality of collecting' forces us to revise the very understanding of the function of the museum. Other phenomena, such as the virtualisation of collections (the creation of simulacra electronic copies without the original, in a travesty of the notion proposed by Baudrillard), the introduction of the concept of 'non-material heritage' or the popularisation of meta-objects in a digital form, inclines us to once again reflect on the definition of the museum. This task is even more justified considering that the transformation that has taken place, and continues to do so, is only a change of the medium and techniques. Actually, we are witnessing an extremely profound transformation of the perception of the physical aspect of phenomena and objects, affecting the types of the sensitivity and needs of people participating in the creation and reception of art, culture and science. In view of the new anticipations of the public, the 'Disneylandisation' of reality, postmodernism, and the expansion of the 'economisation of culture', it is necessary to attempt a redefinition of the museum. Quite possibly, its present-day version would assume the following form: The contemporary museum continues to be a permanent institution but it must provide an income to survive, it serves societies and their policy of defining identity and values, it is publicly available also via the internet, conducts studies on the testimonies of human activity and man's environment, gathers collections and simulacra, conserves and protects collections or the carriers on which they are recorded, renders them accessible and presents them, creates new realities and educational and fictional values, and entertains.







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  • Dorota Folga-Januszewska, Uniwersytet Kardynala Stefana Wyszynskiego w Warszawie, Instytut Historii Sztuki, Katedra Sztuki, Teorii i Muzeologii Wspolczesnej, ul. Woycickiego 1/3, 01-938 Warszawa, Poland


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Publication order reference


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