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UDC 069.01:81’373.46

I. M. Fetsko (І. М. Фецко)

Львівський національний університет імені Івана Франка, м. Львів



У статті вказано на міжнародні термінологічні видання та їхні специфічні особливості в галузі музейництва, виокремлено основні публікації, які стосуються різних музеєзнавчих проблем, описано роль музеологів у розвитку музейної термінології.

Ключові слова: музей, музеологія, термін, термінологія, словник.

В статье указано на международные терминологические издания и их особенности в музееведении, выделены основные публикации, которые касаются разных музееведческих проблем, описана роль музееведов в развитии музейной терминологии.

Ключевые слова: музей, музеология, термин, терминология, словарь.  

In the article, the author studies international terminological editions and their specific features. She elucidates the main publications dealing with various aspects of museum studies as well as explores the role of museologists in the development of museum terminology.

Key words: museum, museology, term, terminology, dictionary.


Terminology is a language’s aspect which is actively developing during the last decades. The so-called ‘terminological explosion’ is observed in all languages, and it brings about a great amount of new terminological units.

The development of Ukrainian museum terminology and its harmonization with the international system of terms are significant for the full-fledged functioning of the state language in the social, academic and cultural life of the country as well as define its international level.  

Each nation that gained independence, after being part of large empires for a long time, faces the problem of reformatting state-shaping processes and accentuates its authentic features. Along with the establishment of a national language, the standardization of branch term systems, like the system of museum terms, also plays an important role.   

The significant trend of terminological research in Ukraine is the study of forming term systems of various branches of knowledge, including museology. This research is topical due to the increase of Ukrainian researchers’ interest in terminology of scholarship branches as well as to their searches for ways of solving burning problems of establishing new term systems in contemporary literary Ukrainian.

The development of museum terminology has been studied by some Ukrainian researchers, like О. Perelyhina in „On using the term „exhibit” in museum literature” [13], R. Mykulchyk and P. Slobodian in „Problems of compiling a dictionary of museum studies” [8], „A reference book of terms in museum studies” [9].

The main objective of this article is to study the general outlines of the development of museum terms in the 20th to early 21st centuries on the basis of analyzing main works in museum studies published in Europe.  

The aim is to describe terminological dictionaries in museum studies of the 20th to early 21st centuries and identify their purposes, orientation, structural compositions and descriptions of the material collected.

The problems of developing museum terminology, esp. the correspondence between similar terms in various languages were realized by the members of the Committee of Museology at the International Council of Museums (ICOM) back in the late 1970s and 1980s.  This idea was motivated and popularized because of publishing two national terminological dictionaries in the USSR (1974) and in Czechoslovakia (1978). It was then that the ICOM started the ‘harmonization’ of museum terminology, i.e. the juxtaposition of terminology on the national and international levels.

The first Russian dictionary of museum terms was published the Research and Development Institute of Culture (currently the Russian Institute of Culture Studies) in 1974 [4], its second extended edition appeared in 1983 [5] and in 1986 (in cooperation with the Central Museum of the Revolution) [10]. Later on the Institute continued its terminological work in large-scale projects, academic publications  [2, 10], conferences and workshops.

The core of the dictionary consists of the basic concepts of museum studies: museum, museum studies, museum world, museum subject, museum object, „the museum’s social functions. A large amount of these terms required profound revision and clarification: recently the research has collected a great deal of new findings, ideas, theories that influenced such usual and, seemingly, traditional terms.

Communicative and semiotic ideas, penetrating the museum sphere, have caused the usage of terms which are borrowed from neighbouring disciplines and which acquire new shades in museum studies  (interpretation, discourse, sign etc.). As a result of the development of linguistic concepts, a number of linguistic terms became part of museum terminology, e.g. text and context.

Extremely topical for contemporary museum sphere are definitions connected with law and museum management. They show the general legal field for the existence of our museums today.  Most of them are fixed in legal documents, and the dictionary makes the first attempt at defining them in the context of museum practices. The next stage of work will be the advancement of these terms to the level of research categories. 

The dictionary also registers some foreign museum terms found in the foreign museum publications, the documents of the ICOM, in reports of international conferences which – following the development of national museum practices – can enter Russian museum discourse [15: 48].

During the 1960-1980s in Russia there were plenty of academic editions dedicated to various issues of museum studies, esp. the collections of articles like „Problems of the expositional and academic activities of museums” (1982), „Museum studies. The art of museum exposition and the technical equipment of museums (1985), „Museum studies. Issues of theory and methodology (1987), „Museum studies. Issues of cultural communication in the museum reality (1989) and others. Of great significance was the dictionary of museum terms „Terminological problems of museum studies” (1986). It remains the most complete edition up till now [12: 4].

In the 1980s, Dictionarium museologicum (1st edition – 1981, 2nd edition – 1986) came out: despite its title, it was a dictionary of 1600 most widely-used museum terms in 20 languages where short explanations followed only those terms which did not have analogues in other languages.  Later, in 1989 in Canada there was published “Lexique de museology/Glossary of Museology” that provides analogues between English and French museum terms.

Just after publishing Dictionarium museologicum”, it was evident that the emphasis should be shifted from the matter of searching for a right equivalent to the specification of the concept designated.  In 1982, the Swedish researcher W. Sofka, a recognized founder of contemporary museology, criticized the current practice of just accumulating terms and stated that the tight cooperation work of authors, linguists and editors is required for elaborating the common conceptual base for further debates [17: 8]. Unfortunately, the research did not receive further funding [6: 43].

In 1993, a group of ICOM members who were leading experts from various countries like Аndre Desvallees (coordinator, France), Ivo Marojević (Croatia), Peter van Mensch (the Netherlands), Tereza Scheiner (Brazil) and Zbinek Stransky (Czech Republic), decided to continue the harmonization of terminology after realizing the previous drawbacks and starting with the elaboration of the common conceptual base. The results of this work were to be published as a collection entitled Idee museologique de base/Basic Museological Ideas.

The preliminary plan of the project excluded the fields of conservation, restoration and management as they require clarification to the least extent, and their topics are widely discussed in ICOM publications. The working method of the project was a collective discussion of the working group that studies terms offered by the very group members and by the ICOM members who participated in the General Conference in Stavanger, in 1995 as well as in the then annual meeting of the Brazilian National Committee of the ICOM, held in Petrópolis. The researchers also paid attention to the dictionaries, esp. the multilingual Dictionarium museologicum and the French-English Lexique de museology[6: 43].

The structure of the future dictionary was to take into consideration all terminological divergences, and each term entry was presupposed to start with a linguistic block, covering the following aspects: first, equivalents and analogous terms; second, a definition; third, examples from various languages if possible; fourth, derivatives; fifth, correlates (concepts so related that one directly implies or is complementary to the other). The linguistic block opened way to the description of the development of a term from the linguistic and historical perspective which was finalized with its current state of arts within contemporary museology.  In addition to this structure, the Czech museologist Z. Stransky suggested an alternative conception which was not supported and did not get any further development. The idea was to create a publication which would be a half-dictionary and a half-encyclopaedia [6: 43].

Due to the lack of funding, the project “Basic Museological Ideas” stopped. However, the current findings showed new terminological shortages: first, the differences of interpreting terms happen both between linguistically heterogeneous countries and within linguistically cognate countries like the UK, the US and Australia or Brazil and Portugal; second, it is desirable to illustrate the usage of terms in order to avoid “translator’s false friends” (foreign words which are similar by sounding and different by meaning). Thus, the term „museography” appeared in the early 18th century and denoted a description of museums. In Russian museology, „museography” is defined as a unity of published books about museums, but in other countries this term is interpreted in various ways. In France, it traditionally denotes the unity of technology and practices connected with a museum’s exhibiting activities that also influenced the interpretation of this term in Spain and Latin America. In Italian, „museography” covers both exhibiting activities and museum architecture [6: 44].

The “Russian Museum Encyclopaedia”, which was published in 2001 [14], summarizes the tercentennial development of museum studies in Russia. This is the first attempt of the structured and systematic description of what contemporary Russian museologists have at their disposal. The idea of compiling a museum encyclopaedia in Russia appeared in the early 1980s. The so-called museum boom was gradually decreasing, but the museum remained the focus of the society’s attention. The direct work started in the mid-1980s: the fellows of the Russian Institute of Cultural Studies (then it was called the Research and Development Institute of Culture) started analyzing the academic and informational conditions for compiling a large reference book in the sphere of museum studies. The conceptual base for this encyclopaedia, the list of entries and the methodological sources for future authors were published and widely discussed in 1987–1990.  It took three years to write the entry articles of the encyclopaedia. Two more years were spent on the search for illustrations, the clarification of concepts and terms, the editing of texts by various authors and the compilation of all materials into one system that represents Russia’s museum world [14: 5].

While compiling the encyclopaedia, terminology turned out to be one of the most complicated problems. Museum studies is a young discipline, its methodology and language are being shaped, and it borrows both methods and terms from neighbouring disciplines while modifying their content to its needs.  The development of museum studies changes the content of a concept. The terminological confusion also happens when terms are used by museologists and by museum practitioners. Besides, the inconsistency between museum terms of Russia and of other countries complicates communication and translation.  

The authors of the “Russian Museum Encyclopaedia” had to systematize the existing material as well as to elaborate new definitions. Understandably, the encyclopaedia cannot fully resolve terminological problems, but these are already its merits that they are identified, described, systematized, that each term is presented in the context of its historical development, that other variants and interpretations are carefully recorded, that the desirable variants are suggested according to the contemporary research. Thus, the terminological block of the entries turns this edition into a convenient contemporary dictionary, applied in museum research and practices. It also creates a base for further clarifying and unifying terms and for elaborating the own language of museum studies that is an important stage for establishing museum studies as an independent academic discipline [14: 8].  

“A Short Dictionary of Museum Terms” by O. Halkina and T. Petunina [1] came out in 2004. It is structured by the alphabet principle. It contains main museum terms used in practice. This dictionary does not contain general terms, but only includes specific museum terms  [9: 107].

In 2007, the French museum experts F. Mairesse and A. Desvallees, members of the board of the Museology Committee, prepared a collective monograph in French [20]. The English-language version of the book came out the next year. Museum experts and workers from 16 countries offered the new, contemporary interpretation of the phenomenon of museum in. The topic of establishing museum terminology was later continued by ICOM members in the journal “Museum” in Russia.

The Russian national academic conference with international participants, which was dedicated to the development of museums in higher education establishments, was held in 2008. The Committee of Museology, its aims, tasks and functions were the subject of the report by E. I. Cherniak  [16].

The International academic conference Museology at the Beginning of the 3rd Millennium, organized by the Committee of Museology members J. Dolák and P. Nekuža in the University of Technology (Brno) in 2009, attracted the attention of researchers to the history, theoretical and practical activities of the Committee of Museology [21]. Of particular interest is the article by  P. Holman on the activities of the International museological school in Brno [18].

The year 2010 is marked with the publication of the dictionary Key Concepts of Museology, prepared by a group of authors, members of the board of the Committee of Museology.  This edition is a complex, interdisciplinary research resulted from the international cooperation of museologists from various countries.

Key Concepts is a topical reference book: it provides 21 detailed definitions with the analysis of their evolution as well as with derivatives and correlates.  The articles with these definitions have entered the vocabulary of the French-language Encyclopaedic dictionary which contains 500 more terms. Contrary to most dictionaries, the style of these entries are written in an highly emotional and deeply philosophical way. A lot of definitions are based on the contrast of an ideal museological model and the real status quo [7: 216].

Despite the fact that the Dictionary represents mainly the Francophone vision of museology through the prism of linguistic consistency, the systematized terminology is clear and popular with some different cultures.  This edition, being non-exhaustive, generalizes the evolution of knowledge within decades, systematically showing the epistemology and etymology of the museum. It offers the profound explanations of basic concepts in today’s museology due to a deep practical insight into multiple views, past and present statements.  The aim of this small-sized book is to supply wide public with an access within the historical and contemporary context to the origin and evolution of terms which today’s language is so rich in. As a result, the 22nd General Conference of the ICOM in Shanghai (China) is the debut of this valuable reference book in museology. Reaching the concord between museum experts of all nationalities is the very reason that enables the appearance of standards and reference books like these for present and future researchers [19: 8–9].



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