Museum (Gr. μουσεῖον), originally the name given by the ancients to a temple of the Muses, and afterwards to a building devoted to science, learning, and the fine arts. The first museum of this kind was the celebrated Alexandrian Museum. SEE ALEXANDRIA. After the revival of learning in Europe, the term museum was sometimes applied to the apartment in which any kind of philosophical apparatus was kept and used; but it has long been almost exclusively appropriated to collections of the monuments of antiquity, and of other things interesting to the scholar and man of science. In this sense it began to be first used in Italy, and probably in the case of the famous Florentine Museum, founded by Cosmo de Medici, which soon became a great and most valuable collection of antiquities. Nothing analogous to the museums of modern times existed among the ancients, the greatest collections of statues and paintings which were made in the houses of wealthy Romans having been intended for splendor rather than for the promotion of art. The name soon ceased to be limited to collections of antiquities and sculptures and paintings; collections illustrative of natural history and other sciences now form a chief part of the treasures of many of the greatest museums, and there are museums devoted to particular branches of science. Of the museums of Britain, the British Museum is the greatest; that of Oxford, founded in 1679, is the oldest. The museum of the Vatican, in Rome, contains immense treasures in sculptures and paintings, and also in books and manuscripts. The museum of the Louvre, in Paris, that of St. Petersburg, and those of Dresden, Vienna, Munich, and Berlin, are among the greatest in the world. The usefulness of a museum depends not merely upon the amount of its treasures, but perhaps even in a greater degree upon their proper arrangement; and while great collections in the chief capitals of the world are of incalculable importance to science, its interests are also likely to be much promoted by those local museums, still unhappily not numerous, which are devoted to the illustration of all that belongs to particular and limited districts. Museums appropriated to the illustration of the industrial arts — their raw material, their machines, and their products — and of everything economically valuable, are of recent origin, but their importance is unquestionably very great. Pre-eminent among institutions of this kind in Britain are the South Kensington Museum and the Industrial Museum in Edinburgh. In recent times missionary museums have been started in the United States for the purpose of collecting all that is valuable for the proper interpretation of heathen religions, and to commemorate Christian victories over pagan idolatry.

Definition of muse

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