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23 December 2013

Everybody Still Loves a Museum 

In an age of electronic distractions, the appeal of a museum persists. Landmarks like the Louvre in Paris attract growing attendance, while emerging nations are building more museums to burnish their cultural standing on the global stage.

The tradition of museums housing art, antiquities and natural history has not changed, but the idea of a museum has broadened considerably (France has a museum of mushrooms; Belgium has one for carrots). Museum designs have become much more showy in recent decades and exhibits have become far livelier and more interactive.

They have also become more innovative in how they raise the funds to support their activities – budgets can run as high as the British Museum’s annual £100 million, of which 40% covers staff costs.

As global populations become more educated and prosperous, they begin to nurture a stronger appreciation for the arts and culture. That simple desire to stand in front of a real Van Gogh or Picasso is supporting museums around the globe.

Museums can tap into the growing demand for elite culture by staging large exhibits of famous artists, although renting out their most prized artworks for exhibits at other museums can be just as lucrative. That’s on top of the traditional revenue sources: government agencies, non-profit cultural institutions and donations from wealthy individuals. 

New fundraising ideas are important because struggling local economies have created financial difficulties for many museums. The challenge for museums is to stay vibrant so they do not become historical artifacts.