Museum Love

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I always talk a lot about how much I love museums, but I don't think that I have ever explained why I love them so much. It's not really a secret, especially not to my closest friends, but my ultimate career goal is to work in a museum, ideally in museum education. I have been lucky enough to have two seriously wonderful internships in Denver this summer, and I'm so sad that they're coming to an end.

The basic story behind my decision to pursue museum work as a career goal really started out with my decision to switch major at the beginning of this year from International Studies to History. I couldn't be more happy with my decision, and the different passions that it has allowed me to pursue. However, when I was considering whether or not I should change my major, I consulted my advisor. I asked her what career I could have, besides teaching, with a degree in history. She asked me what I liked to do, and I said writing (of course), traveling, and going to museums. I think there was a lightbulb moment there: Museum work is a career, and it's a career that I would love.

Without further ado, here is my list of five reasons I love museums!

1. Informal Learning Environment
As much as I love school, I find it to be stifling at times (which is one of the reasons that I started this blog). However, my parents took me to museums all the time when I was a kid, and I think that it really fed my curiosity about the world and my place in it, and I was able to learn the way that I wanted to learn instead of how it was dictated to me in school.

The elephant in the rotunda of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

2. Authenticity
There is something so overwhelming about standing in front of an original Van Gogh, or an original da Vinci, and thinking about the incredible people who made these objects. One of the most overwhelming experiences that I've had that falls under this category was when I visited the National Archives in Washington, DC and visited the Rotunda and saw the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. There was something that was so amazing about standing and looking, being so close to those documents that we hold in such high esteem here in the US, and are really keystones in our history (also, my history major senses were tingling, big time).

The National Archives

The Louvre in Paris

I read this article, which my supervisor at one of my internships shared with me, and I was really struck by how accurate it was. I've also been reading The Monuments Men book, and I really think that there is a reason that we need to protect the authentic products and evidence of our existence. We see ourselves, our experiences and our lives in the objects that we see in museums. They help us to connect to who we are, who our families are, and how we have come to be. I get chills thinking about how truly awesome that is!

3. Record Keeping
Kind of going along with #2, museums are repositories of information and achievements. They pay homage to the greatest scientists, writers, and artists of history. They show us where we've been, and help us figure out where we are going. They remind us that while we have achieved amazing things, we have also made some terrible mistakes, and not all history is good history. These records and lessons are invaluable, and museums are leading the way in teaching us these things.

My touristy photo of the Mona Lisa.

4. Connection
Local museums connect you to your home - the history, culture, and importance of your surroundings. Museums you visit in other places help you connect to other people - their history, their culture, the things that are important to them. Whenever I travel, I visit the major museums in whatever place I'm going. I always feel connected to the people that the museum is about, but also connected to other people who also find meaning and wonder in the objects, artifacts, and stories told in museums.

A ceremony in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, celebrating the Star Spangled Banner, the actual flag that the National Anthem was written about, on display here. 

5. Action
Some of my favorite museums not only tell a story, but they encourage visitors to think about the stories they tell and how it impacts our future. There is a social action piece to some museums, a dialogue created, that I think is incredibly powerful. Museums can no longer afford to be temples in the park, places to think about the amazing things we find in our world. They must challenge us to think differently and critically about what we see, to engage in conversation about hard-hitting topics, to address the hard issues, and to challenge what we think we know.

History Colorado in Denver is doing this through their exhibit called Living West, which explores the hard decisions that have been made throughout history regarding water, a scarce and valuable resource, but also how we have to make decisions in the future about water, especially because of climate change.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum does this by telling the millions of stories of victims of an unspeakable tragedy and loss, and also telling the stories of people who are suffering the same way today, challenging visitors to take to heart what they saw, and have courage to speak out against cruelty, racism, and hatred.

Do you love museums? Do you love them for different reasons? Let me know in the comments!

As always, thank you for reading.




  1. Right? I love that feeling! Thank you for reading!

  2. Great post, I love museums too! I grew up homeschooled, and going to museums has always been a HUGE part of my life because of it hahah :)

  3. That is so awesome that you're pursuing something that you're extremely passionate and interested about! I say well done! Museums are pretty great, we don't have that many here in Minnesota, but the ones we do are pretty lovely. They're all located in the main hub of the state, Minneapolis and St. Paul and they're focused on artwork. It's fun though to see these pieces in person! :)

    Mostly Lisa

    1. Thank you Lisa! I'm really glad I have finally found something I love to do. :) I've heard that there are some wonderful art museums in Minneapolis!