Museums That "Matter": An Analysis of Four History Museums

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Virginia Tech


Museums have, in recent years, experienced an increasing amount of pressure to fulfill their role as public institutions for both education and entertainment. For museums to ensure their success in this role, they must constantly investigate their operations in order to maximize their effectiveness. Common museological theories and literature are shared by museum professionals across the globe, roughly forming an ideal standard for museums. This study argues, however, against an ideal standard in favor of museums being evaluated in their own right. Elements of Stephen E. Weil's system of evaluation described in Making Museums Matter (2002) — and specifically his four evaluative criteria of purposiveness, capability, effectiveness, and efficiency — are employed in this study in order to evaluate four history museums — the building for the protection of the royal tombs of Vergina, Greece, the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki, Greece, the Archaearium at Historic Jamestown, Virginia, and the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. The use of these four criteria allows for a basic understanding of the ways in which the museums in this study have become successful despite their variance from an ideal standard.