The role of the art museum — with its aesthetic values — is as an agent of the social imaginary, creating a mutual identity among the citizens. This role, in large part, comes from the work and planning it does as a modern social institution. Additionally, its mission goes beyond the history of art and makes it an entity that promotes art itself — both the work and the artist. But above all, the museum serves as a catalytic agent for art among the public and individuals that visit it.

The museum’s mission does not exclude it from other roles that support the public’s aesthetic experience or art criticism, as individuals also define the institution by their decision to visit it or not. One clear definition of the museum — to involve it directly in an assessment of its social value — is proposed by the International Council of Museums in Article 3 of Section II, which states the museum’s importance in terms of its functions: “Any permanent institution that preserves and displays collections of objects of cultural or scientific nature for purposes of study, education and delight is recognized as a museum.”

The art museum, however, not only preserves, disseminates, educates and delights —like museums in other disciplines — but also performs other important work that is not generally seen by the public, except on special occasions. This means that its nature as an achievement of human creativity and its role in creating awareness of aesthetic values are part of its reason for being. It is therefore not surprising that those involved in art criticism (critics and curators) look warily at new forms of content, roles and values for the institution.

Among the things an art museum should bring about is the social integration of a common imaginary. The objective is to bring about and facilitate a significant aesthetic experience of social identity represented in, and disseminated by, the institution, and not just through its collection (visiting or permanent). What this tells us is that the experience of aesthetic appreciation implies confronting and adopting the human identity, because it is there that we find the objectification of the human and the very nature of art appreciation.

It should be stressed that the site where this awareness lies is the one where other forms of appreciation are born, such as the intellectual objective of organizing and categorizing artistic works and their evolution in a given space and time. This appreciation, in turn, serves as an historical depiction and general evolution of a region or country’s thinking.

A work of art, from the time it enters the museum to be exhibited, joins the category of artwork or artistic creation and sets certain conditions for others like it. For this reason, the museum’s role in art history is important. Aesthetics, like politics, religion or science, is a way to resolve human questions and to appreciate our species per se.

The museum as a modern institution defines the parameters of humanity’s evolution. We must analyze the contributions, both positive and negative, by art museums in history and in general, while taking into consideration the parallel events that created that historical relationship.
Autor: Dalila Rodríguez
Published: December 26, 2011.

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