Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Tag: museums

What Makes a Beautiful Museum?

With safe travel starting to become possible again, and folks thinking about engaging together in culture, art, and history to gain hope after a worldwide pandemic, it perhaps seems natural that people might seek out special beauty in the places they choose to visit. I was browsing the news online when I came across this National Geographic article entitled “These are the world’s most beautiful museums,” complete with short descriptions and breathtaking photographs of fourteen visually stunning museums across the globe. It speaks to the power of visuals to draw human beings in and entice us, and to the value of making an exterior as impressive as its inner contents, that I found myself longing to visit every single one of these museums.

Yet it certainly made me wonder. What, really, does make a beautiful museum? To each museum-goer, this question has a different answer. Is it simply its architectural design which makes a museum beautiful — the inside, the outside, or both? Is it the artwork hanging on the walls? The history that’s told within? The passion of the staff and volunteers who keep it operating? The discourse, questions, and ideas it sparks? The significance of the place itself, or the people who once lived or worked there? Or the visitors, bringing with them their biases, their problems, and their thoughts, and leaving with renewed knowledge, interest, and energy? Is it a combination of all of these things?

What, to you, makes a museum beautiful? Under your qualifications, what are the most beautiful museums in the world?

Below, find a list of just a few of the museums commonly considered the “world’s most beautiful.” But remember that — and it’s only cliche because of its profound truth — beauty is absolutely in the eye of the beholder.

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, South Africa

 Upon its opening in 2017, the Zeitz MOCAA became the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world. The building was previously a grain silo, and both the interior and the exterior creatively and effortlessly incorporate and transform the remnants of this former function into something beautiful.

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum, Brazil 

The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum is, unsurprisingly, a main attraction in the city of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. It took five years to build before its opening in 1996 and stands four stories high, overlooking the South Atlantic Ocean.

Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain

 The Guggenheim Bilbao is just one in a family of four surreal Guggenheim institutions. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi all manage to catch the eye and keep it.

National Museum of African American History and Culture, United States

The NMAAHC stands powerfully and beautifully on Washington D.C.’s National Mall, surrounded by monuments honoring men whose involvement in Black history is detailed within the museum. Designed with elements of African, European, and American architecture, the building gives an impactful statement on the African diaspora.

Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar

Built on an island in Doha Bay, the Museum of Islamic Art was designed by a 91-year-old architect who had to be coaxed from retirement. The building’s mesmerizing reflection on the sea alone is enough for me to be grateful they convinced him. The museum has become a cultural icon for the Arabian Gulf since opening in 2008.

Shanghai Astronomy Museum, China

Having just opened its doors in July of 2021, the Shanghai Astronomy Museum is already making a huge impact. It is the largest museum in the world dedicated to astronomy, and each architectural component of the building is also an instrument that tracks the sun, moon, and stars. In imitation of the universe’s complex geometry, the museum is designed with no right angles or straight lines.

State Hermitage Museum, Russia

This is by far the oldest museum on the list. Founded in 1764 with Catherine the Great’s own art collection, the Hermitage still manages to impress. It was once home to Russian Tsars and remains the largest art museum in the world. It’s been said that with a minute spent looking at each item in the Hermitage for eight hours every day, it would take fifteen years to see the entire thing.

So what do you think? Would any of these museums make your list of the most beautiful in the world? What else would you add?

Boston events for museum professionals this week

Hello friends and happy Monday! We have details of two events happening this week for museum professionals to share with you. One is happening tomorrow, Tuesday, October 1, and the other on Wednesday, October 2. Both events are FREE but do require advance registration.

Using Visual Thinking Strategies to Jumpstart Audience-Centered Learning

by the Greater Boston Museum Educators Roundtable

Join us for a half-day workshop to consider VTS in a new light! Visitors today suffer from staccato looking: scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, making instantaneous assumptions about what they see. In order to be responsible citizens in an increasingly global society (with more and more focus on visual culture), visitors of all types need to develop their visual literacy. Doing so increases their ability to assess images and information of all types, including artwork, maps, and primary vs. secondary sources. This level of deep thought and critical thinking informs understanding of our shared human history and fosters a respectful curiosity.

After participating in this workshop, educators will understand Visual Thinking Strategies as a methodology of facilitating conversations about artwork and its broad applications in museum and historic site settings. Participants will learn how to build observation and communication skills in their audiences, how to encourage the consideration of multiple perspectives, how to use images/objects thoughtfully in program planning, and how to improve facilitation skills when teaching. Through small group work and VTS discussions, teachers will walk away prepared to employ an exciting technique that will strengthen audience engagement and foster critical and creative thinking in your museum or historic site.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019
1:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT

Otis House Museum
141 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114

Museum Careers Panel Discussion

by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Interested in learning about diverse professions in museums? Hear from a panel of MFA staff members in curatorial, education, exhibitions, conservation, marketing, public relations, and other departments as they discuss working in the museum world. Learn about their career paths, the challenges they encounter in their fields, and the opportunities they envision for the future of museum work. This event is free with Museum admission and open to all undergraduate and graduate students. Students attending institutions participating in the University Membership Program receive free Museum admission.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. EDT

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Barbara and Theodore Alfond Auditorium (Auditorium G36)
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Science in Museums – An Introduction!

Welcome to Science in Museums! In the fast-paced world of scientific discovery, we’re here to bring you the latest on anything and everything related to science, museums, and the complex issues museums face in presenting science to the public in a new weekly column. Check back each Wednesday for posts on all things science and museum-related. We’ll be launching our first post next week, but in the meantime we science-bloggers thought we’d introduce ourselves:

Catherine Sigmond:

Hello everyone! I’m a first year graduate student working towards my M.A. in Museum Education at Tufts. I’m passionate about finding innovative ways to teach and communicate science to people of all ages and backgrounds. Prior to coming to Tufts, I studied Biological Anthropology, French, and History at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. I use this diverse background and particular love of natural history and linguistics to craft ways for the public to engage with and develop a better understanding of the scientific issues that affect our lives. Prior to coming to Tufts, I helped organize international traveling exhibitions at Exhibits Development Group, taught English in the south of France, and developed educational programs at the National Constitution Center and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. When I’m not in class or blogging you can find me at the Museum of Science, Boston, where I work as a school visits and youth programs intern, or at English At Large, where I help develop English as a Second Language curriculum for immigrants in the Boston area.

Kacie Rice:

I’m a first year student in Tufts’ Museum Education M.A. program, and my focus is teaching people of all ages about science. While studying biology as an undergraduate at Barnard College, I worked on educational projects with the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the American Museum of Natural History. After college, I spent two years as a molecular biology researcher before coming back to the museum world, and I’m so excited to share my love of science with museum visitors! My main goal is to teach adults and children about science topics such as climate change and public health that will impact our global community into the 21st century. In addition to writing for the Tufts Museum blog, I’m also working as a paleontology Gallery Guide at the Harvard Museum of Natural History and as an intern at the Public Health Museum in Tewksbury, MA.

Cira Brown:

Hello! My name is Cira and I’m a first-year student at Tufts concentrating in museum education. My background is in the history of science and technology, and I’m particularly interested in transformative power of science in culture. My previous work has examined media climates during the US/Soviet Space Race and educational methods on the historical narrative of quantum mechanics.
It’s my ambition is to work in the field of science exhibit development. I feel strongly about the value of informal education and I am in love with the craft of interpreting and presenting information for wide audiences. I’ve learned that effective experiential design is a mish-mash of different disciplines, and my strategy has been to gain as much experience as possible to prepare me for the field. I have previously worked as a teacher, graphic designer and web developer, all of which inform the way I approach science communication. I recently completed two internships at the Museum of Science: first, as a engineering advocacy/research intern with the National Center for Technological Literacy, and second, as the exhibit development intern where I got to participate in many aspects of the development process. I am also a floor demonstration affiliate and volunteer at the MIT Museum, and this semester I will be developing two new demos for public engagement: one on the usage of gyroscopes in navigation, and the another on the Apollo Guidance Computer. I will be documenting the progress of developing and testing these projects in this blog, so stay tuned!



Catherine, Kacie, and Cira 

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