Museum collections are made up of groups of objects within each museum. These objects include any element that pertains to the realm of material and cultural nature that is worth preserving either inside or outside of its natural habitat or in documentation.

Museums can be defined by their collections, even though the objects within a museum collection or exhibition are often polysemic, that is to say they have more than one meaning. It is possible to differentiate:

Managing collections and exhibitions is one of a museum’s basic functions and can also be related to things like restoration, investigation, education and sociocultural projection among other things. In addition to their basic functions, museums can generally be differentiated into four different types according to the relationship between the museum collections and the visitor.

Four Different Types of Museums

Although there are four types, it is common to see characteristics of one or all of these types in one individual museum. These four types are:

It is important to highlight that none of these museums are necessarily better or worse than the others. Each museum is highlighted for a different reason, so while restoring and protecting history primarily correspond to first and second generation museums, opening spaces to communicate certain messages would be the responsibility of third and fourth generation museums.

In any case, object exhibits can be controversial and have evolved in recent years. For example, in recent years the idea that all objects should have a label with information has changed to showing objects without labels but with the information available on interactive panels or with audio guides. If the problem before was handling how much information to add onto the labels, nowadays the problem involves how to make the information available to the people interested whether it is a label, panel, audio guide, etc.

In other words, they are based on a constructivist view of education where each person constructs their own knowledge and converts the museum into its facilitator. In order to achieve this, it is important that the visitor to not only be considered a user but also a commentator. This involves a change from the traditional model of communication in most museums. Well-known museums that have adopted these tendencies in the past include certain science museums like those in London or Valencia where they have started to use activities for discovery and self-learning through the possibilities provided by new technology.

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