Does a visit to the Museum of Ice Cream or 29Rooms count as a cultural experience?
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This Is a Museum?
A new report suggests that our definition of culture is changing

The Museum of Ice Cream. The Museum of Selfies. 29Rooms. Each of these venues offers outstanding opportunities for social media-worthy snapshots. But are they really museums? And what is their cultural value?

Traditionally, museums are institutions of learning. “The relationship between people and art has changed,” explains Tair Mamedov, co-founder of the Museum of Selfies in Los Angeles. “Now people don’t want to just be a silent consumer, they want to be a part of the art.”

A new report, based on an online survey of more than 4,000 people, demonstrates that the definition of culture is changing. The majority—81 percent—said that “having fun” is the number one reason they participate in cultural activities. About one-third of the respondents want cultural activities to foster interaction and be sharable on social media.

Curators at many museums, especially those who specialize in scholarly exhibitions, are wondering how to keep people engaged. The teams at some institutions are adapting to the changing landscape. Last year the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Indiana began a new initiative to create a more varied visitor experience with a performance space and a mini-golf course, in addition to the museum.

Designers are even creating new museums that provide social media-ready experiences. People who visit 29Rooms, a pop-up space that has appeared in New York City and Los Angeles, take photos in 29 unique rooms. And at the Museum of Ice Cream in Miami, Florida, visitors play in immersive exhibits, such as a swimming pool full of sprinkles.

What does this change mean for traditional museums? Crowd-pleasing exhibitions might entice people to visit museums. But is there cultural or educational value in these types of experiences? Should museums primarily be places for learning or for fun? Why?

1. How has the definition of culture changed?
2. Why are some curators focused on keeping visitors engaged?
3. Should museums evolve to entice visitors?

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