The Great American Museum….

By: Joan Butterfield

Although the roots of the museum as a public space that people could visit to truly experience art were well laid and cultivated in Europe, the trend of becoming cultured quickly moved across the Atlantic to American and a number of museums were quickly built to accommodate the demand. Never one to let the Europeans get the better of them, the Americans that erected and populated the museums on the east coast with some fantastic pieces were determined to do it bigger and better, and largely succeeded. The museums in America are fantastic in terms of the sheer size and range of genres that they encompass, but the history is absolutely fascinating and is definitely worth finding out about. American museums soon became known as some of the leading museums in the world, keeping company with the Vatican museums and some of those strategically placed in the largest cities in Europe, like the Louvre. In fact, the museums in the USA became known as centres for education for those individuals that wanting to look a little further into art and expand their horizons. The great American museums started to spring up during the same period of time, that is the later 19th and early 20th centuries. This period was aptly known as the “Museum Age”, or “Museum Period”, and was to be one of enlightenment for the individuals that lived in cities and those travelling to cities to view the art alike. The aim of the museums erected during the museum period was to inspire the individuals that lived in the various states and to provoke academic and scientific discoveries that would make the country the greatest in the world. This was the aim of both the natural history, art and historical museums of the period. However, there was an underlying reason behind the establishment of the museums. They wanted to do everything bigger and better than the Europeans in addition to wanting to advance the artistic fabric of the country. As a result, many of the museums attempted to get hold of some of the older collections to display and exhibit upon their arrival. This included work from Ancient Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia and even the Greek art. All of this was indeed of massive interest to the American people and the museums quickly became popular places to hang out.

With the establishment of the top universities and colleges in the USA, the focus for innovation and unique thought was taken away from the museums and yet they kept their popularity. People would go and spend hours looking around, and were often joined by tourists too. This largely occurred in the 1930s. However, it did not quell the thirst for knowledge in the museums and the urges of the board of directors at each one to go out and procure great artefacts to display. There are typically new exhibits and lectures at a museum in the United States occurring every day. All of the major cities have large museums that are constantly striving to give the people more and more educational material. Even the colleges and universities typically have museums on campus for students to attend as and when they wish. As a result, the great American museum goes from strength to strength and takes the value of education along with it!

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