Museums are among the most important cultural establishments. They take on the incredibly complex and unbelievably important task on preserving, teaching and recounting the histories of the world in order to teach future generations the lessons of the past. Of course, seeing as we have been around for about 2.5 million years—and the earth itself for far, far longer—there’s a lot to tell and as such museums dot the entire globe each contributing their little pieces to the puzzle that is humanity.
Here we’re looking at some of the world’s foremost museums which, if given the opportunity, are certainly must-sees. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on two major types of museum—history museums and art museums.
Human History Museums
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities – Cairo
Taking us back to one of the world’s most celebrated ancient civilizations, Cairo’s Museum of Egyptian Antiques is home to almost 120,000 ancient Egyptian artifacts along with the world’s largest collection of Pharonic antiques. And even holds the world-famous gold mask of Tutankhamun.
The National Palace Museum – Taipei
Taiwan is an often-forgotten nation due being dwarfed by it’s larger-cousin China. However, Taipei’s National Palace Museum. Housing nearly 700,000 pieces spanning around 8,000 years of Chinese history, the palace museum was originally founded in Beijing in the early 20th century, but the collection was shipped to Taiwan during the civil war and has remained there ever since. Making it one of, if not the, greatest singular museum of Chinese antiquity in the world.
Museo Nacional de Antropología — Mexico City
Being the largest and most visited museum in Mexico, this museum homes in on the country’s pre-Columbian history.
The British Museum – London
Being the first national museum in the world, established in 1753, and housing an incredible wealth of knowledge spanning the globe the British Museum is a one-stop shop for getting an overview of world history. Of course, its colonial past may result in some bad press, but one cannot deny the amount of knowledge contained within its huge walls.
The Getty Center – Los Angeles
Bridging the gap between history and art, the Getty Center is the foremost museum on the US’s West Coast. Housing European paintings, drawings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, photography and much more the museum was founded by art collector J. Paul Getty in 1953 and has remained a premiere attraction ever since.
The Musée du Louvre – Paris
Although it’s known best for offering views of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Musée du Louvre (often referred to simply as The Louvre) began its legacy as the world’s largest art museum in 1793, and has remained prominent ever since now holding over 380,000 works of art spanning much of human history.
Galleria dell’Accademia – Florence
Many art museums are known for one piece, and the Galleria dell’Accedemia has such a piece—Michelangelo’s David which has stood within the walls since 1873. But, again, this gallery has far more European and Italian art history to show.
Tate Modern – London
The Tate is a legendary British institution founded by Henry Tate in 1889. It has two key London venues; the Tate Modern, which houses historic pieces of modern art, and the Tate Britain, which houses historic British art. Found within the former Bankside Power Station on the bank of the river Thames, the museum is also a fascinating study of renovation—hosting exhibitions and performances in its “tanks” which lay deep underground.
The National Art Center – Tokyo
Although one of the youngest museums on this list, Japan’s National Art Center based in Tokyo prides itself as an “empty museum”. This means that instead of the staggering number of owned in-house art boasted by the other art museums on this list (who store the majority of their works behind closed doors) the National Art Center is focused on ushering in exciting new exhibitions. This creates an ever-changing museum space, making it one of the most exciting art museums to visit worldwide.
No matter what part of history you’re looking for, there’s almost certainly a museum which specializes in it. From natural history to CupNoodles (yes, seriously) there are museums across the globe which tell the stories of humanity. So, if you’re ever feeling curious, be sure to visit a museum near you, wherever you live, as we all always have a lot to learn.