top of page

What Does the Term "Museum" Really Mean?

I just learned that ICOM, the International Council on Museums, has updated their official definition of the word "Museum." A collaboration of more than 120 national committees globally created the new definition after 18 months of work.

The definition now reads: "A museum is a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection and knowledge sharing."

For the Wabash County Museum, we have already been making moves to make our museum more inclusive, more welcoming to a broader audience, and more sensory friendly. This is important because museums are often thought of as high brow spaces that make guests feel inferior, uninformed, and, in some cases, unwelcome. We want our museum to be a space where all people feel welcome, connected and engaged.

Earlier this year, the Museum introduced a new permanent exhibit about Daniel Furguson, a black entrepreneur who arrived in Wabash on a canal boat and stayed to train a generation of young black barbers. Born to parents who had been freed from slavery, Daniel was a respected member of the Wabash community who, in later years, was well-known across the state for his speeches on emancipation and President Abraham Lincoln. We will continue to find and recognize more change-makers who have been underrepresented and /or marginalized. The result will be more exhibits that showcase these individuals and their contributions in the Museum.

Our team will be digging into the hard work of becoming a more inclusive and welcoming museum later this year. This work will involve reviewing and updating areas in the Museum that might pose difficulty for those with hearing issues of all ages. On the 2nd story, we will introduce a sensory friendly space for youth. The entire museum will be split into zones on a map that will allow guests with Autism or other sensory challenges to pinpoint areas in the Museum that might be more inviting to them versus spaces that might be more difficult. All of these changes will create a more user friendly and engaging space our guests.

Several of the words in the new definition for Museum above are highlighted. These words: interprets, accessible, inclusive, diversity, and sustainability will be key pieces of our strategic planning to build a strong pathway for the Museum into the future. A phrase is also highlighted: offering varied experiences. If you haven't visited the Wabash County Museum, or even if you have but it's been awhile, stop in and see the amazing work our team has been doing to build a Museum that will meet all of our guests where they are. From the Den to Interactive Exhibits to the Military section, there is something for everyone at the Museum.

Support the on-going projects of the Wabash County Museum at



bottom of page