Edited by Ruth Towse
Víctor Fernández-Blanco and Juan Prieto-Rodríguez Most people would agree that museums are cultural institutions par excellence. However, more questions arise when we want to establish a definition of the museum and explain its economic characteristics. The museum: an economic definition There are many definitions regarding the museum as an institution devoted to the collection, storage, display and research of objects, artefacts, or even intangibles. Along these lines, the Statutes of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) offers the following definition: ‘a museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment’.1 We might categorize this as an institutional definition; note that it is not uncontroversial, since it leaves out for-profit organizations that collect or exhibit any kind of object. Alternatively, although they recognize the importance of the functions defined by ICOM, Ginsburgh and Mairesse (1997) point out that this definition risks neglecting other activities such as leisure, tourism or regional economic development. In the end, it offers a partial, conservative and even biased definition of the museum. Following an economic point of view, together with the seminal perspectives of Montias (1973) and Peacock and Godfrey (1974), we offer a definition that considers the museum as an economic agent. We posit it as an organization that follows a general path specified by economic behaviour, that...
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