Museums, today, are wonderful places of learning, history, and art; they are major attractions for travelers and tourists; they are great places for special events and school field trips, not to mention the new interactive games that many museums use to help young people become engaged in history and arts.
Yet, what actually takes a museum to greatness? It’s programs? It’s special displays or exhibitions? The consensus is that a museum’s true greatness must come from its collections.
This does not mean that a museum’s educational programs or its activities, traveling exhibitions, etc are not important; it means that these things are the frosting of the museum appeal. A museum’s collections are the cake. Great works are necessary for world appeal; a museum without such works may have a minor success locally, but will never be able to attract the wide appeal of a truly great museum.
These great museums do not need to have a special display to attract visitors. People know that going to the Louvre is going to be an incredible experience; they do not need to know what the schedule is or what the special showings are in order to be attracted to the Louvre or to make special plans to visit. The museum stands on its own because of its priceless collections.
Of course, every museum has its own distinct personality and contribution to mankind. All museums have a certain beauty and attraction about them, especially if they are well maintained and cared for. However, we must remember that when a museum achieves greatness, it is because of the collections that have come under the museum’s wing and are now part and parcel of that artistic ambiance.
When an art lover travels thousands of miles to visit a museum, it is not because of programs, studies, or exhibitions; it is because of the collection that is inherent to that museum.
This is what draws the crowds; this and this alone.