The Public Interest

The new museology

Lynne Munson

Spring 1997

OUR relationship with museums is based on trust. But while we expect history museums to know the facts and science museums to understand the math, we demand more from art museums. We go to paintings and sculptures much as we do great novels, expecting that we might acquire information, though primarily seeking to experience art itself. We know that we react differently to Vermeer’s intimate, pausing interiors than we do to the fleeting images of everyday life. Still, few of us believe we will ever grasp the elusive quality that defines art against everything else. So we rely on the art museum to provide us with the best examples of man’s aesthetic soul.

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