The impact of a piece of artwork is more than just a visual image. I am
sure that autocad images of the human body help medical students, but I
would not want to be cut on by a doctor who had not worked on real flesh. A
painting is far more than a photo, poster or image on a screen can convey. I had
seen a Gauguin self portrait in countless prints and photos and though I knew
it well, but when I walked by it in a museum I was stunned by its impact. I
can't imagine a photo reproducing the depth and glow of a Vermeer, and I will
never forget taking some of my students to a museum with huge Renaissance
paintings when they had never seen anything but photos and posters and pictures in
books. They stood in awe of the paintings. I had taken them to see an Andy
Warhol exhibit. We didn't spend much time with Andy.
Museums make it possible for all of us to experience artwork that was
once only available to the wealthy. Knowledge of art has been used for
centuries to create class barriers, and it is still used in that way to some extent.
Museums help break down the barriers.
This doesn't even touch the importance of museums for conservation and
I could go on endlessly, but then I am a person who dearly loves museums of
all types and sizes!