Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Encyclopedic Museum

  • David Fleming
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_1982


The concept of the “encyclopedic” or, as it is sometimes known, “universal” museum has been around for a long time, certainly since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and it provided a reference point for much museum collecting subsequently, especially in the nineteenth century. The concept came to renewed prominence in 2003 with the “Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums” by the directors of a self-selected group of big European and US museums (The Art Institute of Chicago et al. 2003). This Declaration was fairly explicitly represented by the directors as the views of the “international museum community.” Actually, this is far from the truth, and there has been intense debate about the concept and the Declaration ever since.

Key Issues/Current Debates/Future Directions/Examples

The Declaration, actually, did not use the term “universal museum,” except in its title. Instead, the terms “major museums” and “museums whose collections are diverse...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Cuno, J. 2008. Who owns antiquity? Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  2. - 2009. Whose culture? Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Flynn, T. 2003. The universal museum: a valid model for the 21st century? Available at http://tom-flynn.blogspot.com/p/universal-museum-valid-model-for-21st.html.
  4. McGregor, N. 2004. The British Museum. ICOM News 57(1): 7.Google Scholar
  5. O’Neill, M. 2007. Enlightenment museum – universal or merely global. Available at http://www.elginism.com/20071012/826/.
  6. Schuster, P.-K. 2004. The treasures of world culture in the public museum. ICOM News 57(1): 4-5.Google Scholar
  7. The Art Institute Of Chicago et al. 2003. Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums. Available at www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/newsroom/current2003/universalmuseums.html.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Museums LiverpoolLiverpoolUK