Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Mega Museum

The term “museum” can be applied to a variety of institutions, including art galleries, museums of natural or human history, and zoos. In its most ancient sense, the term “museum” was used to describe a place for worshiping the muses. The term had a broad semantic range into the 18th century—it could be used to describe a study, library, college, meeting place for the learned, or for “Ashmole’s Museum” in Oxford. In the late 19th century, the definition of a museum began to narrow and museums, as institutions, began to become professionalized.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. This is a mega museum: it includes natural and cultural history collections and is full of artifacts, art, living history, and live animals. At the center of the facility is a rare book library. It is a fascinating and fun place to visit, providing visitors with a broad and deep sense of the region’s natural and cultural heritage.