Your "Museum" is NOT a Museum (A Rant)

This rant has been a long time coming. For around 5 years, I've been growing increasingly annoyed about the existence of "museums" that are not, in fact, museums. I came close to ranting on this topic in June 2022 but restrained myself. No more. 

I visit a lot of museums. By my count, I visited 35 museums in 2022 (and had planned another 14 between Christmas and New Year's. Sigh.). The museums I visited and enjoyed covered a wide range of topics: history, science, culture, fine art, decorative/functional art, food... the list goes on and on. To be clear, I am not one of those people who thinks that a museum must be a building made of marble and display only priceless items by the Masters to be a "real" museum. Far from it. The Mustard Museum wasn't exactly high-brow, but it was one of my favorites from 2022. 

Let's see what the International Council of Museums has to say about the definition of a museum:

I was REALLY excited back in 2018 when I heard that there was a Museum of Ice Cream opening. A building with exhibits about the early history of ice cream, technological improvements that made ice cream a household item year-round, ice cream and advertising, the role of ice cream in different cultures around the world... that's the kind of place I would travel a significant distance specifically to visit. Too bad that isn't at all what Museum of Ice Cream is. It is a place to take pictures of yourself and your companions. It doesn't have exhibits on display - it has backdrops and sets visitors use to pose. That's not a bad thing. I'm perfectly fine with someone opening a building full of scenes and charging admission to people who want to pose with them. But I'm not ok with calling that a museum. 

A museum has exhibits. You look at the exhibits, read about the exhibits, and in some museums, you touch the exhibits. When you take photos, your pictures are of the exhibits. You might photograph yourself or your companions WITH the stuff on display, but ultimately the picture exists to say, "I saw this (fill in the blank) and want to remember it." That blank might be "Rembrandt painting" or "jar of mustard from the former Czechoslovakia." Either way, most guests' photographs are of exhibits, with or without themselves in them. 

In contrast, a for-profit place to take pictures of yourself is not a museum. These are the modern versions of photo studios. They're the Olan Mills and Glamour Shots of the 21st century. Museums are for learning. Photo studios are for having photos of yourself taken. If you go to the fair and get dressed up in old-timey western clothing for a cool photo, you probably had fun, which is great, but you haven't visited a museum. 

Once again, I want to reiterate that there is nothing wrong with a place to take photos for social media. They're a lot of fun. Let's just call them what they are. Or, more accurately, don't call them what they aren't. Shockingly, the CEO of the Museum of Ice Cream agrees with me. 

I think experium is a great word to describe what MOIC actually is. I know a rebranding isn't practical for a lot of reasons, but everything about Ice Cream Experium is a far better name than Museum of Ice Cream. Add a subtitle, "Ice Cream Experium: Creating Riveting Experiences and Memories" and your acronym is literally ICE CREAM.  

Now get out there and enjoy a museum or an experium near you! Just don't confuse the two. 


  1. I love going to museums, now in my upper age category, even more so. One, to refamiliarize myself with my past and in most cases to learn about the entire past. As a child, younger and small, it was not fun. Unless it had dinosaurs. :-)

  2. Yep. I agree with you. They opened one here last year. And I was very disappointed with the cheesy displays for photo-taking (still mandatory mask-wearing when I went), the only part that had any ice-cream history was a gallery wall right at the start of the "tour" (you can't backtrack), the only ice-cream that was decent was the Haagen Dazs section...the in-house milkshake that was served at the end was the worst milkshake I've had in my life. Good thing I scored complimentary tickets...it's not worth paying for it.


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