Appreciating museum and its collections

Museum was coined from a Latin word- Museion – meaning a temple dedicated to the muses. It is in form of sanctuary to the Muses of Greek mythology. In 1974, the International Council of Museum (ICOM) adopted a definition which is still widely acceptable aside from the various definitions suggested by different writers and groups at different fora.

The definition adopted by ICOM 1974 states that, “Museum is a non-profit making permanent institution in the service of society and its development, and open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits for the purpose of study, education and enjoyment material evidence of people and their environment.”

Museum is a place where artifacts or antiquities (collections) are preserved to tell the story of man and his environment.

Museum’s collections are the reasons for its existence; what determines any museum is the kind, volume and the quality of objects in its collections and the use to which they are put (Buccaw, 1975:47).

Collection is an age-long activity of man and it can be for social, economic, or religious purposes, among others.

An object or collection can serve one, two or more purposes.

For instance, a bronze figure can serve as historical, art, ethnographic, or technological figure.

Collections have to be selective. They may be based on the following factors: The financial resources of the collections, that is, what museum collects depends on the available funds to purchase; the collections received or gathered by the museum depends on the facilities available, like storage facility and preservative measures.

The scope of museum collection also determines the types and number of collections collected.

There are different types of collections, which can be categorized into agricultural collections (tools for farming, fishing, harvesting), aesthetic collections (for fashion and decoration), ceremonial collections (used for traditional ceremony, drums, staff of office, regalia), religious collections (for religious activities e.g shrines, masquerades, amulets, etc), shelter and comfort collections (such as domestic items, like beds, windows, doors, etc).

It should be noted that the value of the collections in museum is not by their beauty or size, but their usefulness.

  • Adeyeye is Assistant Chief Curator at the National Museum of Unity, Ibadan.

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