Museology

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Museology

 

a scholarly discipline dealing with the origin of museums and their social functions, questions of theory, and methods of museum management.

Museology is concerned with the study of the social conditions that determine the origin and functioning of museums. It also studies the special aspects of primary sources deposited in museums in accordance with their specialization, as well as special aspects in the development of natural and social phenomena. Thus, museology deals with the system of museums and the museum per se as a historically conditioned social institution and with its internal organization, which depends on the social environment and the state of the specialized disciplines.

Museology investigates the social functions of museums, which include the acquisition of primary sources (inseparably linked with the study of nature and society); the scholarly documentation, study, and storage of museum objects; the organization of expositions and exhibitions as characteristic forms of popularizing knowledge; and scholarly enlightenment and ideological education. Also associated with the last function is the study of psychological and pedagogical questions (specifically, the museum’s influence on its visitors).

The museological study of primary sources—museum objects —has the aim of revealing their communicative functions to the fullest and specifying methods for their storage, conservation, and restoration. The scholarly study of museum objects is important for the comprehensive documentation and preparation of sources for optimal scholarly and educational use and for discovering the expressive possibilities of museum objects, that is, for determining the “emotional charge” of a source and exploiting that emotional charge in exhibits and in various kinds of work for the general public. A special aspect of the museological study of nature and society involves the choice of phenomena to be documented by the museum and the selection and subsequent use of primary sources that reflect the specialized interests of the museum. This aspect of museum work deals with the study and acquisition of museum objects.

Soviet museology, relying on Marxist-Leninist methodology, makes use of diverse research methods. The documentation of processes, characteristic of Soviet museology, is manifested especially clearly in the documentation of living, operating social systems, especially the documentation of the era of socialism. Soviet museologists work out problems dealing with museums’ expositions, acquisitions, and scholarly and educational activities. For the first time in world practice, Soviet museologists have successfully mounted thematic exhibits involving a large selection of materials from various disciplines. Problems of research, acquisition, and exhibition of artifacts of recent eras have also been theoretically validated.

Museology makes use of methods of field research and systematic first-hand observation. It applies sociological methods to the acquisition of museum objects and the study of visitors and employs various methods used in the social and natural sciences, including cross-reference documentation, comparative analysis, and typologization, as well as X-ray photography, spectography, and chemical analysis (in conservation and restoration) and experimentation (in exposition).

The structure of museology comprises the theory and history of the museum, including museological historiography; museum source studies; and the scientific methodology of all the specific aspects of museum activities and of museological research.

The objective complexity of museology predetermines the multiplicity of its links with other sciences. Museology is associated both with the social and the natural sciences. It is particularly associated with those scholarly disciplines, including specialized and auxiliary ones, that define the specialties of respective museums (history, archaeology, ethnology, literary studies, zoology, geology, natural science). At the same time, various disciplines are not mechanically linked with museology but are integrated by it as an autonomous branch of knowledge.

The development of museology is manifested both in the wide-ranging variety of museum activities and in the specialized scholarly literature (periodicals, monographs). In the early 1970’s, more than 150 journals completely or partly devoted to questions of museology were being published throughout the world. Among them were the international periodical Museum, published by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) under UNESCO, and the journals Neue Museumskunde (German Democratic Republic), Muzealnictwo (Poland), Muzei i pametnitsi na kulturata (Bulgaria), Revista muzeelor (Rumania), Muzejnáa vlastivĕ dná práce and Múzeum (Czechoslovakia), The Museums Journal (Britain), Museum News (USA), and Musées de France (France).

In the USSR, the following journals dealing with museology have been published: Muzei (1923–24), Kazanskii muzeinyi vestnik (1920–24), and Sovetskii muzei (1931–40). The collections Muzeinoe delo ν SSSR (nos. 1–5, 1968–73) and Trudy Nil muzeevedeniia also appear on a nonperiodical basis.

Many countries have museological institutes, scholarly centers, and departments of museology: the department of museology of the Research Institute of Culture (USSR), the Museum Institute (GDR), and departments of museology at the universities of Prague and Brno (Czechoslovakia).

REFERENCES

Osnovy sovetskogo muzeevedeniia. Moscow, 1955.
Silianovska-Novikova, T. Osnovi na muzeeznanieto. Sofia, 1972.
“Diskussionsbeiträge zur Museumswissenschaft.” Neue Museumskunde, Berlin, 1964, fasc. 3, supplement.

A. M. RAZGON

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