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Assess The Roles Of Museums In The Past, Present And Future

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Assess the role of museums in the past present and future

Museums come in many forms including technological and science museums, historical museums and natural history museums. The preservation of culture and artifacts, the exhibiting of human remains and the education are issues that museums face. The role of these museums in the 20th/21st century has evolved in a developmental growth from preserving and displaying artifacts in the past to making money through displaying artifacts during the present. In the future, it is most likely that museums will be aiming towards promoting a greater understanding of the artifacts with in the museums.

Museums of the 19th century have not had a role at all in the education of the public. Instead, they were essentially warehouses in which to store ancient artifacts merely because the owner had stolen them for greed. Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in the beginning of the 19th century returned to France with a large amount of stone statues which now stand in the Louvre. Furthermore, museums of the 19th century usually acquired human remains by shady means. Any claim for them by the people they were taken from was dismissed on the basis that the museum found it and therefore belonged to it. This was an unethical incorrect practice that has been slowly corrected in the lead up to the present century.

The Elgin Marbles have presented one of the bitterest struggles between a nation that claims it as a national treasure and another that legitimizes ownership on the basis of the right of possession. As one guide in the British Museum put it, "we paid for it." The museum has long maintained that Athens has not provided a safe and adequate building to display the marble reliefs. The government of Greece, however, has recently completed construction of a climate-controlled facility that will properly display the sculptures. Yet the British Museum will have none of it and continues to resist returning the artifacts.

Nefertiti's bust is also one such artifact that is debated over as to whether or not it belongs to the Egyptians. While German authorities say that at the dig where the item was found, the finds were split equally, the Egyptian authorities believe the Germans hid it from them. Both examples of arguments between whether or not an artifact belongs to a museum or the culture it came from demonstrate the greed of the museums which already possess the artifacts. I believe that the artifacts should belong to the culture it came from.

Museums of the 20th/21st century have an integral role in the education of human and natural history as well science. Human remains are slowly being defined as cultural property as opposed to scientific property. In 1982, the Council of Australian Museum Directors made a decision that no human remains would be displayed to the public and that they would be returned to those who could prove their...

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