Here’s why cultural institutions still have value in modern day society
By Sarah Green, Arts Editor
We live in a world where we can access pretty much anything with a little digging and a few clicks. The Internet has opened up a digital universe brimming with unique stories to uncover and art to appreciate. This then begs the question: what value do museums and cultural institutions have anymore?
Through our screens, a wealth of information and experience is at our fingertips waiting to be discovered. Perhaps the most powerful part of the Internet is its accessibility. As users, we don’t have to leave the comfort of our own homes to experience the depth and breadth of what the world has to offer. Instead, we are immersed in our own little bubbles where we can experience everything from afar — whatever form of art or culture it may be.
Recently, I stepped out of my bubble and visited four museums in New York City and Washington D.C. — The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), The Guggenheim, The Smithsonian Natural History Museum and The Newseum. There is something magical about stepping into a sacred space reserved for art, culture and history to be preserved and appreciated. It was incredibly refreshing to immerse myself in the slow-paced environment and take a step back from the hectic routine of modern life. For the first time in a long time, I let myself breathe as I wandered through the exhibitions, soaking up all of the intricate details. Each museum I visited contained a unique atmosphere that cannot be translated through words — their spaces acted as a safe haven from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
MoMa is a stunningly minimal space. With its clean lines and white walls, MoMa describes its galleries as reflecting the ever-expanding story of modern art, bringing together powerful voices from around the world. From 2017 to 2018, MoMa welcomed over three million visitors from 56 countries and displayed a variety of exhibitions, ranging from celebrating inspiring women to utopian models.
Located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, The Guggenheim defines itself as the permanent home of a continuously expanding collection of impressionist, post-impressionist and contemporary art. The building itself is a stunning landmark — its unique ramp gallery extends up from ground level in a long, continuous spiral. The exhibitions featured in The Guggenheim are nothing short of breathtaking, with a strong variety of pieces that give viewers a holistic sense of the art scene.
The Smithsonian Natural History Museum is on a level of its own. Located in the heart of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the museum’s collections tell the history of the planet and act as a record of human interaction. By housing a collection of 145 million specimens and artifacts, the museum attracted 4.8 million visitors last year.
The Newseum is considered one of the most interactive museums in the world. It features 15 galleries and 15 theatres all with the goal of increasing the public’s understanding of the importance of a free press. Throughout its six levels, visitors experience the history of news and how the role of a free press directly applies to their lives. In 2018, over 770,000 people walked through the Newseum’s doors and took part in the incredible exhibitions featured in this space.
After spending many hours in these four museums, I now realize the sheer value these spaces have in modern day society. So many of us have tunnel vision when it comes to our daily routines and we fail to recognize the vast beauty and history that surrounds us. Even though we can Google the various pieces and artifacts being featured in galleries or museums, the atmosphere of these sacred spaces cannot be replicated through writing. There is such power in tangibility — I encourage you to find it.