Museums have served generations of people as holders of our history, artistically, scientifically and otherwise. They are teachers without ever saying anything out loud. Sometimes we don’t even need words; a picture is enough to say it all. Museums are the conservers of heritage and beauty. It displays everything important and beautiful in our world that once was. They showcase beautiful minds that may be long gone but are still with us through their creations.
Most of us visit museums as mere spectators for enjoyment, some as critics. It is relaxing and an escape; just you and all things fantastic. There are a variety of museums from archaeological, art, biographical, children’s, encyclopaedic, ethnology, historic, living history, maritime, military and war, mobile, natural history, to open air, pop up, science, virtual, specialized, zoological and botanic gardens.
Mexico City has the largest number of museums with over a hundred and twenty-eight museums and according to The World Museum Community, there are over fifty-five thousand museums in over two hundred and two countries!
“Museum” comes from the Latin word. It is originally Greek, which denotes a place or temple dedicated to the Muses. Which basically means it is a building specifically dedicated to the study of arts or mainly to observe various art forms.
Here are some of the world’s top museums:
This is the Dutch national museum in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and is dedicated to art and history. It was founded in The Hague in 1800 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808. The current main building was designed by Pierre Cuypers and first opened its doors in 1885. It has on display over eight thousand objects of art and history from their total collection of one million objects and artefacts. Among them are masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. It also has a small Asian collection which is on display in the Asian Pavilion. It also has on display the stern of HMS Royal Charles which was captured in the raid of Medway, and the Hartog Plate.
9. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
This is a museum of modern and contemporary art designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry and is located in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. It houses “large-scale, site-specific works and installations by contemporary artists, such as Richard Serra’s 340 ft-long Snake, and displays the work of Basque artists, as well as housing a selection of works” from the Foundation of Modern Art collection. It has acquired paintings by William de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still and others. Their exhibitions change often and they generally hold thematic exhibitions. Their collections usually focus on Avant-garde art, twentieth century abstractions and non-objective art.
8. Hermitage Museum
This museum of art and culture is found in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. Founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, it houses collections of which only a small part is on permanent display and comprises over three million artefacts. Off the six main buildings, four, the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and New Hermitage are partially opened to the public. The museum houses Egyptian Antiques, Classical Antiques, Prehistoric Art, Jewellery and decorative art, Italian Renaissance, Italian and Spanish fine art, Knights Hall, Dutch Golden Age and Flemish Baroque, German, British, Swiss and French fine art, Russian art, Neoclassical, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.
7. Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is a museum in Florence, Italy and is one of the most famous and oldest museums of art in the Western World. Giorgio Vasari began the building of the palace in 1560 and the construction was continued to Vasari’s design by Alfonso Parigi and Bernado Bountalenti and ended in 1581. Because of its huge collection some of the artefacts have been transferred to other museums in Florence. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions and during peak season (mostly in July) the waiting time to enter the museum can be up to five hours though those who have purchased tickets in advance have a comparatively shorter waiting period.
6. British Museum
This museum in London is dedicated to human history and culture. Its permanent collection includes 8 million works and is one the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents. It was established in 1753 and is based on the collections of physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. It is divided into a variety of departments like Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Greece and Rome, Middle East, Prints and Drawings, Prehistory and Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the America’s, Coins and Medals and Conservation and Scientific Research. Although today it is specifically meant for cultural art objects and antiquities, the museum had been founded as a universal museum.
5. National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum is found in Shinlin, Taipei, Taiwan. It houses a permanent collection of over 696,000 pieces of ancient Chinese artefacts and artworks making it the largest in the world. The National Palace Museum and the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City share the same roots but were split into two as a result of the Chinese Civil War. The museum houses Chinese calligraphy, porcelain, bronzes, paintings, jades. They have accumulated over 696,000 artefacts but only one percent of the entire collection is put on display at a time.
4. Museum of Modern Art
This is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City and has been identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world. The collection offers works of architecture, design, drawings, paintings, sculpture, photography, illustrated books, artists books, film and electronic media. It houses the work of Vincent van Gogh, Henri Rousseau, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon and others. A maze of glass walkways permits viewing from a number of angles.
3. Metropolitan Museum of Art
This museum in New York City is the largest museum in the United States and one of the ten largest in the world. It has a permanent collection of around two million items and artefacts that are divided among seventeen curatorial departments. It’s collections include Ancient Near Eastern Art, Arms and Armour, Arts of Africa, Oceania and the America’s, Asian Art, The Costume Institute, Drawings and Prints, Egyptian Art, European Paintings, European Sculpture and Decorative Art, The American Wing, Greek and Roman Art, Islamic Art, Robert Lehman Collection, Medieval Art, Modern Art, Musical Instruments, Photography. The museum was founded in 1870 and occupies about 2,000,000 square feet.
2. Vatican Museums
These museums are located within the Vatican City’s boundaries and display works that have been collected by the Catholic Church through the centuries. It traces its origins from a marble sculpture purchased around five hundred years ago. The sculpture of Laocoon and his Sons was discovered on the 14th of January 1506. The Museum Christianum was founded by Benedict the XIV and some Vatican collections formed the Lateran Museum.
This is one of the world’s largest museums and historic monuments. The museum is housed in the Lourve Palace (Palais du Louvre), originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Phillip II. The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property.