Museums are described as institutions that care for or at times become responsible for artifacts that have been collected because of their artistic, cultural, historical or at times their scientific significance. These museums are located all over the world and are maintained by the respective national governments, and they may continue with the conservation throughout the years as history is made from the particular state or nation. Museums offer a different form of services both to researchers and to the general public and hold information about the nature and type of events that took place in the past. These museums may also serve the purpose of providing evidence of prior lifestyle or existence of creatures and their specific adaptations to their particular niche. These artifacts do not find their way to the museums, but they are collected from different archeological sites or the places they have been discovered. The paper will discuss this aspect about museums and analyze whether the museums serve the purpose of both protector and destroyer of history at the same time.
Museums as Protectors of History
Museums are responsible for the protection of a wide range of artifacts that are important for the research, science and the entertainment of a country. For example, in India, there exists a doll's museum which houses six thousand different types of dolls from all over the world. This display shows and exhibits the evolution of the toy making technology and industry which may be used to study technological progress.
Museums also help preserve and promote the cultural heritage of the nation as these artifacts may be collected from different parts of the country and preserved from the continually changing technological age. This will assist the generation in knowing and deeply understanding their heritage hence develop a sense of attachment to their culture. These museums offer protection to such values hence their need in the societies (Perera).
Museums are also an essential storehouse of the heritage of the country and offer good education and research centers for students who intend to specialize in the different historical courses and faculties. The government will also have a selected place where the evidence of past events can be derived from hence historical protection. For example, in the African country of Kenya, the national museum has set up places in the different parts of the country where its citizens can converge and look at their heritage especially since the country has different ethnicities. This assists in building a sense of confidence between the government and its people.
Museums as Destroyers of History
Recently, in some ways, it is a total cliche to confidently say history is created and written by victors as the artifacts and the history written is edited in various ways by the pleasure of the rein's holders. Many artifacts destroyed are not only for petty vandalism reasons but also to eliminate and erase the leaders or creators faces and names from history (Priewe). The objects might also be destroyed accidentally by staff members or museum visitors for example in 2010 in Cambridge UK- Fitzwilliam Museum, a man, caused a damaged $ 800, 000 by accidentally falling into a Qing dynasty vase display after tripping over his shoelaces and falling down the staircases. The accident that destroyed the Qing dynasty vase erased and destroyed the Qing's dynasty social-cultural heritage. Another example is the destruction of Picasso painting that fell onto by an art student at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Apart from the ways mentioned above at which history/ art/artifact can be destroyed, there exist countless cases of people defacing arts purposely mainly because of personal interest or against grievances (protests).
Stolen artifacts in museums is another common incident that frequently occurs thus impacting to ethical dilemmas in the preservations of world cultures in museums. Does an object age thousands of years belongs to the origin country or humankind/ world? Egypt pyramids are examples of historical monuments that are part of humankind pasts. Repatriation cases of antiquities to their origin countries from American museums are increasing at a high rate after every month (Tharoor). Artifacts represent the cultural heritage of the specific origin country thus even though it's a representation of humanity ancient civilization worldly; the artifacts should be kept among other country's collections of historical archaeology and anthropology representing the social-cultural, political or economic changes of that particular country. This is clearly illustrated by the displayed looted artifacts (25) by the Italian authorities after retrieved from the US in May 2015.
Everything that has societal benefits either locally or globally has disadvantages too, therefore, identifying ways of minimizing and solving the problems rather than not utilizing the benefits of preserving our culture in museums is the suitable way solving the destruction of history issue in museums. Every person has the curiosity to understand the cultures of other people in the world and the museum is the place to visit as its primary purposes are to preserve and protect culture. It is also good for the local communities to store their identity as it can be used in the future as cultural platforms to communicate and educate others about their pasts instead of adopting other peoples cultures.
Perera, Kamani. "The Role of Museums in Cultural and Heritage Tourism for Sustainable Economy in Developing Countries." Regional Centre for Strategic, StudiesSarasavi Lane, Colombo 8 (2013).
Priewe, Sascha. Erasing History: Ancient Artifacts Destroyed, 2015. Retrieved from; https://www.rom.on.ca/en/blog/erasing-history-ancient-artifacts-destroyed
Tharoor, Kanishk. Museums and looted art: the ethical dilemma of preserving world cultures. Guardian News & Media Limited, 2015. Retrieved from; https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/jun/29/museums-looting-art-artefacts-world-culture
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