Museum-goers have become accustomed to waiting in long lines and crowds. The lines at the Louvre in Paris and the Accademia gallery in Florence can stretch for hours during peak season. Once inside, you will have to compete with other museum-goers for a chance to see the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David. If you are lucky enough, you might be able to take 30 seconds to admire the work before another art lover or harried staff member.
European and North American museums are rooted in the elite collections of wealthy and educated men. Although there was an increase in visitors with the establishment of public museums in 18th century, they remained exclusive and unwelcoming for most people.
What happened to museum-goers, you ask?
Today’s art museums
It was also accepted that an art museum could be morally acceptable for helping uprooted and itinerant urban dwellers. Some progressive Americans saw museums in the late nineteenth century and early 20th centuries as safe gathering places. They were reliable alternatives to the beer halls and taverns that could otherwise attract and corrupt vulnerable newcomers to the big cities. John Cotton Dana, an innovator at the Newark Museum, was the one who found the balance between a museum that could improve the lives of city dwellers through teaching them upper-class values and one that allowed visitors access the collections on their terms.