What is a Museum ?

Mark Walhimer About Museums, Museum Definition 1 Comment

What is a Museum?

A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment. (1)

How Many Museums are there in the United States?

There are approximately 35,000 museums in the United States (2)

What are the types of Museums?

  • Aquariums
  • Anthropology Museums
  • Art Museums
  • Art Centers
  • Botanic Gardens
  • Children’s Museums
  • Historic Houses
  • Historic Sites
  • History Museums
  • Local & State History Museums
  • Military Museums
  • Nature Centers
  • Natural History Museums
  • Science/Technology Centers
  • Sculpture Gardens
  • Transportation Museums
  • Visitor Centers
  • Zoos

Do Museums Make Money?

Museums are mission-driven organizations and a cornerstone of civil society.   In the United States, museums are non-profit entities granted tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service with 501(c)(3) tax status they are exempt from federal taxes. Museums are financially supported through grants and donations. (3)

Starting a Museum

Starting a museum is a lengthy and complex project.  As with any complex undertaking, it is best to try to break the overall project into discrete parts.

How do you raise money for a museum?

Link: “Museum Fundraising” blog post

How do you get a museum job ?

Link: “Getting a Museum Job”
Link: “Getting Started in Museums”

How much do museum exhibitions cost?

Link: “2011 Museum Exhibition Cost Survey”
Link: “How Much do Museum Exhibitions cost?”

How do you create a museum exhibition?
Link: “Exhibition Design Part I – Planning”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part II – Design Phases”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part III – Fabrication”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part IV – Installation”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part V – Maintenance”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part VI – Evaluation”
Link: “Creating a Traveling Exhibition”

“How do you Start a Science Center ?”

Link: “How to Start a Science Center”

How do you increase museum attendance?

Link: “How to Increase Museum Attendance”

What is Museum Strategic Planning?

Link: “What is Museum Strategic Planning – Part I
Link: “What is Museum Strategic Planning – Part II Feasibility Studies”

Did I miss any Frequently Asked Questions?, if I did please add them in the comment section below, thanks! -Mark


(1) International Council of Museums (ICOM) 2007

(2) According to the Institute of Museum and Library Services

(3) Exemption Requirements – 501(c)(3) Organizations

Comments 1

  1. This quote sums up what a museum is:

    “Institutions like ours are ultimately about where we as people, as societies, fit into the larger scheme of things — in terms of past and future, in terms of each other,” she said. “And what people take away from the museum is often not just a lot of information but something deeply spiritual, emotional.”

    Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, as quoted in the New York Times about the fire that destroyed the National Museum in Brazil.

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