Museums: from Curiosities to Caretakers of Culture
“A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, research, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.” – International Council of Museums
Museums are at the intersection of multiple lanes of society: cultural, political, and environmental. Each artifact within the collection has its own history, including specific time, place, environment, and people to which it belong(s)(ed) to. Museums are a place where cross disciplinary projects are part of the everyday, as well as the innate desire to be good stewards towards the collections that are held in trust.
Why do we collect? The idea behind collecting is both complex and simple, to enact preservation methods and to create order. Artifacts that have been accessioned into museum collections are both protected from deterioration and destruction, as well as categorized to better understand their meaning and educate visitors/ researchers. This is not all that occurs to these artifacts, as their direct interpretation changes when they are “musealized.” Musealization is when an object is removed from its original natural or cultural environment to be accessioned in a museum or museum-like collection. When this happens, and continues to happen as the object is potentially moved from collection to collection, they acquire new history and new meaning different from the point where they were taken from their original context.
The Bayou Vermilion District’s
Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park
With the approval of the Louisiana State Legislature, in July of 1985 the Lafayette Parish Bayou Vermilion District unveiled their Master Plan proposing development of an area along the Vermilion River into commercial, recreation, and tourist spaces. Two ten-year Millage Propositions were (and continue to be) approved by public vote in 1986. Land was then leased from the larger Beaver Park property which is owned by the Lafayette Airport Commission on July 28, 1987.
The Bayou Vermilion District (BVD) works to preserve both the environmental and cultural history of the Vermilion River, as it is crucial to learn from the past to plan for the present and future. Comprised of multiple assets, the BVD promotes educational programming and recreational activities regarding ecology and cultural enterprise in the Attakapas region. The BVD actively advocates as an entity for environmental and cultural conservation.
The Bayou Vermilion District aims to serve four functions:
TO IMPROVE the water quality and aesthetics
TO PROMOTE the river as a recreational and cultural entity
TO CREATE a viable economic development
TO ENHANCE the bayou’s general condition as an asset
Vermilionville offers many educational programs for the public to learn about unique topics and be inspired in their lives.
Programming is varied and includes opportunities such as:
Workshops in French
Tours Along the Bayou
Lectures on Traditions in Healing
Lessons in Traditional Music and Dance
Explore the origins of the Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park with these photos of its construction.
An Exploration of the Original Vermilionville Sites:
The American Alliance of Museums
“As the museum field’s mark of distinction since 1971, accreditation offers high profile, peer-based validation of your museum’s operations and impact. Accreditation increases your museum’s credibility and value to funders, policy makers, insurers, community, and peers. Accreditation is a powerful tool to leverage change and helps facilitate loans between institutions.” – American Alliance of Museums
The exclusivity of accreditation is demonstrated through the fact that only an estimated 3% of the museums in the United States have been awarded accreditation, with 22% of this figure being history museums. Earning accreditation shows that museum is achieving its mission, goals, and is actively practicing towards standards of excellence.
Builders of the Economy
Anchors within the Community
Loved by the Public
Servers of the Public
Partners with Schools and Education
In June 2020, Vermilionville became the only museum in the Lafayette, Louisiana area to be nationally accredited by the American Association of Museums. This award was the culmination of many years of hard work by the staff and affirms the quality cultural interpretation and exhibition offered at Vermilionville. Accreditation is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a museum, an honor that Vermilionville will cherish and hold itself accountable to in fulfilling its commitment to Museum Excellence
For Further Reading
American Alliance of Museums, Accreditation. https://www.aam-us.org/programs/accreditation-excellence-programs/accreditation/
Chaliakopoulos, Antonis. “History of Museums: A Look at The Learning Institutions Through Time.” The Collector, 13 Oct. 2020.
Mondello, Bob. “A History Of Museums, ‘The Memory Of Mankind’.” NPR, NPR, 24 Nov. 2008.
International Council of Museums. https://icom.museum/en/
Simmons, John. History of Museums. Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences. 2010.
Woolley, Leonard. Ur of the Chaldees: a Record of Seven Years of Excavation. Penguin Books, 1950.
Bayou Vermilion District