What Is the Mythological Origin of the Museum?

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The word "museum" comes from the Greek work "mouseion" which means seat of the Muses. In Greek mythology, the Muses are a collection of sister deities who provide inspiration to patrons of the arts and sciences. As the holding place for the great achievements of artistic and scientific endeavors, museums are closely related to the Muses.

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, the Muses were believed to have been born at the bottom of Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, in Pieria. Their followers formed a cult at Mount Helicon in Boeotia, Greece. There is little recorded information about the activities of the cult, but they did hold a festival every four years near Mount Helicon at Thespiae where attendees could compete in contests of singing and playing musical instruments. The Greeks believed that the Muses were first the patron goddesses of poets, who were also musicians as they provided their own accompaniment; however, at some point their reach was expanded to include all of the liberal arts and sciences. The exact number of Muses in mythology is unknown, though Homer notes nine of them in the "Odyssey" whom he calls upon for help and inspiration at various points throughout the manuscript.