To sort museums and to keep the website organized, WhichMuseum uses a two layer category system.
The first layer consists of museum types ('Types'). These are the main categories museums belong to. Each museum can have a maximum of two types: a primary type and, if applicable, a secondary type. The following five types are used:
- Art & Design
- History & Anthropology
- Nature & Natural History
- Science & Technology
- Specialized & Alternative
Each museum has a primary type and, if applicable, a secondary type. The primary type indicates what kind of museum it is and what it mainly focuses on. If the museum also for a large part focuses on things related to another type, the secondary type is used. When which type is used is described below.
Art & Design
- Art: The product of creative human expressions, including: painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography, film, contemporary media, music and singing, dance, theater, literature and poetry and engineering or architecture.
- Design: The creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system.
- Museums that focus on creative human expressions, including: painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography, film, contemporary media, music and singing, dance, theater, literature and poetry, engineering or architecture and design.
History & Anthropology
- History: Everything that occurred in the past, including all phenomena that undergo change.
- Anthropology: The study of humans.
- Museums whose purpose is to illustrate cultures and peoples of the past or historic events. The museum’s subject is largely related to the life of a person, people, a people or humans in general.
Nature & Natural History
- The contents, operation and history of the universe as perceived by humans, in particular flora and fauna.
- Museums that focus on everything on, in and around the Earth. The main themes are animals, plants and geology.
Science & Technology
- Systematically obtained and ordered objective human knowledge and the application of this knowledge reflected in physical objects and forms of organization.
- Museums that focus on science or scientific subjects and objects or objects related to (major) technological advances.
Specialized & Alternative
- Specialized: Expertise in a particular field.
- Alternative: Unconventional.
- Museums that exhibit a collection that consists of objects of the same type (other than conventional visual arts) or a collection of or about one small subject, specific person or specific (small) group, or to indicate that the museum is not a 'stereotypical' museum. Local history is not regarded as 'specialized'.
The second layer consists of museum topics and themes ('Topics'). Museums can have one or more topics. The following 38 topics are used:
- Ancient Art
- Applied art
- Botanical garden
- Contemporary art
- Historic house
- Industrial heritage
- Language & Literature
- Medieval art & Early Renaissance art
- Modern art
- Open air
- Person & Artist
- Profession & Craft
- Religious Building
- Renaissance art & Early modern art
Each museum contains one or more topics. These are the main topics museums focus on. The order in which they are added has, contrary to types, no meaning. When which topic is used is described below.
- Activities where the natural environment is adapted for the production of plants and animals for human use.
- Museum on horticulture, poultry etc.Often local museums that focus on rural life in the region.
- Art from 30,000 (BC) - 400 (AD).
- Museums with a collection that for at least 25% consists of art from 30,000 (BC) - 400 (AD).
- Multicellular organism with senses that obtain their energy from organic matter.
- Museums on flora and fauna, often with mounted animals, or zoos.
- The aesthetic design of functional objects. Applied Art includes: architecture, interior design, industrial design, photography, graphic design, fashion design and objects created by gold and silversmiths.
- Museums with a collection that for at least 25% consists of applied art (architecture, interior design, industrial design, photography, graphic design, fashion design and objects created by gold and silversmiths).
- Room with glass walls with underwater flora and fauna.
- Museums and zoos with an aquarium, where the aquarium is an important part of the museum or the zoo.
- The study of historic or prehistoric peoples by analysis of their physical remains.
- Museums that focus on exhibiting physical remains of historic or prehistoric peoples. Not local museums with a small number of finds from the area, unless it comprises a large section in the museum.
- The observation and study of all phenomena outside the atmosphere of the Earth.
- Museums on stars, galaxies, planets and the universe.
- Engine-powered vehicles that move over the ground that are not trains.
- Museums on cars, motorcycles, buses, tractors etc.
- Aircraft that move through the atmosphere and the associated infrastructure and services.
- Museums that focus on airplanes or space flight etc. or museum with a collection of airplanes (including war planes).
- A garden where plants are grown in order to be studied.
- Museums that wholly consists of a botanical garden, or museums that feature a (large) botanical garden alongside their other collections.
- An under medieval conditions defendable reinforced structure.
- Museums that feature exhibitions on the castle they are situated in, or castles that can be visited. Not used if the museum is housed in a castle and the castle itself is a separate museum.
- Until the age of 14.
- Museums that specifically focus on children or have a (large) dedicated section in the museum aimed at children.
- Art from 1970 till now.
- Museums with a collection that for at least 25% consists of art from 1970 till now. Contemporary art is often combined with modern art. Both topics are then applied.
- Analysis of the characteristics of different peoples.
- Museums that focus on peoples during different periods, often combined with archaeology. Museums that focus on a wide region or larger. Not used for small local history museums.
- A story told and shown on a screen by using a series of still images.
- Museums that focus on cinema, film or visual culture.
- A designed and landscaped green area or piece of land where plants grow.
- Museum where the (sculpture) garden is a large part of the museum. Often castles and botanical gardens.
- Earth, its history and the processes that shape and have shaped it.
- Museums that for a large part exhibit geological finds including minerals, rocks and fossils.
- A house with an interesting history.
- Houses, apartments, palaces, castles etc. that are largely conserved in their original condition, with the furnishings and collections owned by former inhabitants or that are from the same time period in which they lived.
- The physical remains of the history of technology and industry.
- Museums with, or related to factory buildings, railways, bridges, locks, pumping stations, mills, and in general all industrial material remains.
Language & Literature
- Language is the system of words or signs that humans use to communicate. Literature is the study of the texts that are written in a language.
- Museums on books, texts, writers, language (development) and developments in printing.
- Locally, small.
- Museums that focus on local themes. Often local history or local art.
- Of or relating to the sea.
- Museums with objects or activities related to the sea or rivers, often shipping.
Medieval art & Early Renaissance art
- Art from 400 - 1400.
- Museums with a collection that for at least 25% consists of art from 400 - 1400.
- Other topics.
- Museums that can’t be assigned to other topics or museums with various other topics that do not indicate the most important part of the museum.
- Art from 1860 - 1970.
- Museums with a collection that for at least 25% consists of art from 1860 - 1970. Modern art is often combined with contemporary art. Both topics are then used.
- Art form whose medium is sound.
- Museums focused on music, musicians or musical instruments.
- On an outside area.
- Museums that exhibit buildings and objects outside.
Person & Artist
- An individual or group of individuals.
- Museums that focus on one specific person or specific (group of) persons. Often museums focused on specific artists, scientists or celebrities.
- The capturing of images using light and other forms of radiation.
- Art museum with a collection that for at least 25% consists of photography-related objects, including photographs.
- A living organism with a stem and leaves that absorbs water and inorganic substances from the earth.
- Museums that (partially) focus on plants, including botanical gardens, or museum on the (local) flora and landscape.
Profession & Craft
- A coherent set of work tasks that is recognizable to society.
- Museums that focus on one or several professions or crafts. Often focused on museum crafts, including, breweries and forges.
- Two parallel metal rails fixed to sleepers for transport of passengers and goods in trains.
- Museums that focus on trains and trams etc. This includes museums that organize tours on heritage railways.
- Beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.
- Museums that focus on religion or religious art or buildings used for religious services.
- A building for religious purposes with an open interior or other monumental qualities, including: churches, mosques, monasteries, pyramids, synagogues and temples.
- Museums housed in a religious building (including: churches, mosques, monasteries, pyramids, synagogues and temples) or the building itself.
Renaissance art & Early modern art
- Art from 1400 - 1880.
- Museums with a collection that for at least 25% consists of art from 1400 - 1880.
- An activity for entertainment purposes that involves physical exertion and skill.
- Museums focused on sports in general or a specific sport.
- State of armed conflict.
- Museums that focus largely on war. Wars from all times are allowed.
- Collection of living, originally wild animals confined within enclosures to be displayed to the public.
- Museums with some living animals or that exhibit mounted animals are not zoos.