(Greek Museion) Originally, an open-air temple to the muses, usually consisting of a large open space containing statues of the nine, surrounded by a peristyle. For the Greeks, art and science were products of inspiration: Plato's Ion, in its most famous passage, puts the poet at the end of a long chain, analogous to a string of magnets, with the god (Apollo) at one end, the poet at the other, and the muses in the middle. Thus artistic, philosophic, and scientific production were products of a religious chain of devotion, and the Museum, the muses' temple, was meant to foster their devotion and thus knowledge and information. Both Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum had adjacent Musea.

The most famous of these temples was by far the Museum in Alexandria, founded in 285 B.C. under royal patronage. The Ptolemies intended to make their capital the center of the Hellenized world, and funded the collection of all known writing in the Library of Alexandria, and gathered the greatest thinkers of their time to the separate, nearby Museum, the first pure research institution.

Though the exact site is not yet determined (current French archaeology there give great hope), sources attest to a simple construction. A large open-air atrium was lined with theatre-style seating for lectures (in the Platonic style]), surrounded by a great covered walkway for peripatetic discussions (in the Aristotelian style), and attached to a great communal dining hall. The Museum accepted no real students, and lectures were for the benefit of the kings and the paid scholars, for discussion of recent findings. The Ptolemies also periodically funded symposia, in the true sense, drinking parties for philosophical conversation.

The head of the Museum was an appointed priest to the muses, and had to prove himself a great poet as well as an academic. There is a (probably apocryphal) tradition of the contest between the poet Callimachus and Apollonius of Rhodes for the post. According to the tradition, Apollonius composed his great epic, the Argonautica, and Callimachus a much smaller epyllion, uttering the famous proclamation, "A great book is also a great evil"; better to be a cicada than a braying ass. Callimachus won. The major librarians of the museum, in order:

  • Zenodotus: the first, whose great contribution was an attempt to create a single, definitive edition of Homer. He is criticized even in the ancient world for his athetizing moralism, rejecting lines of the Iliad based on their moral worth.
  • Callimachus: there is some doubt about his position, but he was one of the most important poets and critics of his day, living during the time of Ptolemy II and the early years of Ptolemy III. He championed the epyllion and much smaller works, and the theory that poetry should be an academic as well as aesthetic exercise.
  • Apollonius of Rhodes: according to the same tradition mentioned above, the feud drove him to exile. He returned some time later, after Callimachus' death, to gain the post of chief librarian. He championed the anti-Callimachean faction, and thus great epics and the poetic recording of Aristotle's "noble actions".
  • Neoptolemus: little survives of his work, though fragments have been recently found, and some still exists in later commentaries. He originated the theory, found in Horace's Ars Poetica (also named the Letter to the Pisos), that all poetry should be analyzed in three aspects: the poetry (the individual elements of diction, grammar, and meter), the poem (the construction of plot, character, and structure), and the poet (the life of the poet himself, and his particular, personal virtues and faults).
  • Eratosthenes: the author of the Geographica, a distinguished mathematician and astronomer, and somewhat-skilled literary critic and author of 9 comedies, now lost. He maintained a pedanticly obsessive pursuit of geography, stating that the itinerary of Odysseus would be known only when he had identified the man who made the bag in which Aeacus kept the winds. He defended poetry as an aesthetic art, with the primary purpose of giving pleasure, and thus useless as an instructive tool. The roots of his argument are again found in the Ion, in which Socrates mocks a reciter of poetry for his claim to know all arts, since all have mention in Homer.
  • Aristophanes of Byzantium: apparently the inventor of accent marks in Greek; he also created his own edition of Homer, probably as a reaction against Zenodotus. He also wrote a book on analogy, writing rules of grammar attacking the Stoics.
  • Aristarchus of Byzantium: his greatest contribution is the demand that the Iliad and Odyssey be interpreted as individual works, and not edited or analyzed under the society and morals of later Greece. In other words, poetry must be understood in relation to the time of the creator. He restored many of the curses and "immoral" actions which previous editors had left out.

Already in the middle of the 2nd century, politics drove many of the scholars away from Alexandria, to found Musea in Pergamum, Rhodes, and Antioch. Though even Cleopatra VII supported the museum in Alexandria and took part in symposia, the museum was already well in decline. Brief resurgences during the time of Augustus and later Roman imperial patronage did little to alleviate the loss of the nearby library, or the diaspora of scholars throughout the Mediterranean. By the time of Theodosius II, under his edicts against magic and the pagan relgion, the museum was probably closed.

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the Museum of Alexandria in the history of scholarship. Here were developed some of the most important tenets of literary criticism which survive even today. Only in the last hundred years, with T.S. Eliot and Foucault, was Neoptolemus' role of the virtuous poet in composition finally seriously challenged, though his other two pillars still stand. Likewise, here began the first real study of geography, and the mapping of the known world. Even in its decline, the museum was attended by men like Plutarch. And, perhaps most importantly, the great collection of both scholars and texts in Alexandria allowed comparison of the myriad versions, and thus the first real critical editions and standardizations.

Nodes about museums, because they're cool, and they figured prominently in the childhoods and formative experiences of most geeks. Now with geographical location due to popular demand.
(I notice that a lot of really cool/famous museums haven't been noded, nor have more some general topics such as art museum or natural history museum or museum studies or volunteering in a museum. And nodes for museums in countries outside of the US and major European capitals are almost nonexistent. Write 'em up below when you do, or /msg me)


- Museum
- Science museum
- Wax museum
- Curator
- Docent

(many of these writeups are very brief and could use further contributions)
* = most recent additions, as of December 30, 2001

- Albuquerque Children's Museum, Albuquerque, NM
- The American Museum of Natural History, New York City, NY
- American Visionary Arts Museum, Baltimore, MD
- The Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
- Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, IN
- Baltimore City Life Museums, Baltimore, MD - Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos, NM
- Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York City, NY
- The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, Burlingame, CA
- California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA
- Campus Martius Museum, Marietta, OH
- Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL
- Corcoran, Washington, D. C.
- Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
- Discovery World Museum, Milwaukee, WI
- Dr Pepper Museum, Waco, TX
- Dyckman House, New York City, NY
- Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA
- Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL
- Frick Collection, New York City, NY
- Good Vibrations, San Francisco, CA
- Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NY
- House on the Rock, Spring Green, WI
- Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston, TX
- Jesse James Wax Museum, Stanton, MO
- Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Santa Barbara, CA and others
- Liberty Bell Memorial Museum, Melbourne, FL
- Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA - Mercer Museum, Doylestown, PA
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY
- Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, Mount Horeb, WI
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA -- Needs better writeup!
- Museum of Jurassic Technology, Culver City, CA
- Museum of Menstruation, was Washington, D. C.; currently only online
- Museum of Oddities, Pensacola, FL
- Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA (MY museum!)
- Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland, OR
- Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA
- Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
- Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, AZ
- Rosenbach Museum, Philadelphia, PA
- Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond, VA
- Sixth Floor Museum, Dallas, TX
- Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.
- The Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose, CA
- Titan Missile Museum, Tucson, AZ
- Tom Gaskins' Cypress Knee Museum, U. S. 27, FL
- UDT SEAL Museum, Fort Pierce, FL
- Vent Haven Museum, Fort Mitchell, KY
- Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
- The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto, Ontario
- Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario
- Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta

- Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
- British Museum, London
- HM Customs and Excise National Museum, Liverpool
- Liverpool Museum, Liverpool
- Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum: London (original), Las Vegas, New York, Hong Kong
- Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool
- Museum of Liverpool Life, Liverpool
- Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, Manchester
- Victoria and Albert Museum, London
(There are lots more museums in London, not to mention elsewhere in the Isles...get noding!}

- Louvre, the Louvre, the Louvre Museum: Paris
- The Icelandic Phallological Museum, Reykjavik
- Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

- Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, Jerusalem

- Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
- Scienceworks, Victoria

- Tuol Sleng Museum, Phnom Penh
- Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
- War Remnants Museum, Saigon

Mu*se"um (?), n. [L., a temple of the Muses, hence, a place of study, fr. Gr. , fr. a Muse.]

A repository or a collection of natural, scientific, or literary curiosities, or of works of art.

Museum beetle, Museum pest. Zool. See Anthrenus.


© Webster 1913.

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