The last two decades have seen an explosion in the number of museums and a transformation of their place in society
Museums reached a turning-point at the end of the 1960s. They tried to smarten themselves up, to revive their job of teaching the public and to attract more visitors. Many new ones opened - more than half the world's 25,000 museums started up during the past 50 years. Even the idea of what a museum should be has changed considerably and given rise to a broad range of variations.
Museums were invented at the end of the 19th century as places to gather together and preserve the finest examples of human ingenuity and present them to the public. Early museums often lacked the resources to look after their collections properly and exhibit them attractively. They became dull, grey places which were cramped and increasingly dusty.
These days greyness is rare. In fact, I would divide museums into seven main categories and associate each one with a colour: orange for "interpretative" museums, green for those with an ecological approach, yellow for community-centred museums, blue for those which aim to share knowledge, gold for museums which go in for the spectacular, silver for business-oriented museums and mauve for museums of remembrance.
Interpretation - a watershed in museum history
The interpretative movement began in the 1950s in US national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and the Florida Everglades and spread throughout the English-speaking world, from Canada to Australia via the United …