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...
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