Museum Futures in History
by Pablo von Frankenberg
Jean-René Billaudel, Salon des arts, 1754
Nearly one hundred years prior to the opening of the first intentional museum, ideas and thoughts surrounding the collection of objects were prolific yet were rarely put into practice. Instead, they remained ‘ideal’ museums, having a great impact on the development of the museum as a public institution. As a concept, the ‘ideal’ museum evolved in the beginning of the 18th century, at a time when collections were housed almost exclusively in the palaces of kings and lords. The elites considered this conglomeration of art, naturalia, historical artifacts, gems and coins as proof of their supremacy and taste. When the first ‘ideal‘ museums evolved, it was a critique of the circumstances in which the existing courtly collections were maintained. The palaces often were humid and moldy, the light conditions were miserable, and objects were neither cataloged nor protected from fire or other possible damages because their owners considered them ornaments for their salons and boudoirs. As such, the ‘ideal‘ museum indirectly criticized the lack of public access to collections by proposing an architectural structure detached from the palace.