How Museums Name Their Magazines

magazines for museums

Many museums have a supplemental magazine that is available in print and online to members. These contain information related to the subject matter of the museum. The articles are often about specific exhibits or artists; other times they provide history surrounding the topic. Some are printed monthly and others are distributed quarterly. Regardless of their frequency of publication or distribution, these magazines and newsletters have names that relate, in some way, to the organization’s arts or history topics or to the museum itself.

Smithsonian is the monthly publication that encompasses all the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums and galleries plus the National Zoo. The magazine was started in 1970 and institution was founded in 1846. All of the buildings and the zoo are in Washington, D.C. except for two in New York. Those are the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Within the Smithsonian group, the separate museums also have magazines. These focus on the specific area of specialization. For example, the American Indian museum has a Washington, D.C. branch and a New York branch. Both locations are represented by one magazine, National Museum of the American Indian. This quarterly publication contains information on current and future exhibitions and in-depth history articles about such topics as famous Native Americans or U.S. treaties made with the American Indian nations. It also features arts such as basket weaving and jewelry.

National Geographic is the publication for the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. It has been published monthly since its first issue in October 1888. The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. has the covers of all the issues on display. The magazines are a combination of science, archaeology and geography with culture and history around the world.

Another way that museums name their magazines is by subject matter. Sea History comes out quarterly for the National Maritime Historical Society. As the title suggests, the publication is filled with articles about maritime history, art, historic ships and upcoming exhibits at maritime museums. Every issue has a children’s section with such topics as ocean currents, different kinds of fish, weather, and types of jobs aboard a ship. This magazine was started in 1972.

Preservation is the quarterly magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Launched in 1952, this publication combines the history of buildings in various stages of restoration plus the history about the surrounding community. Each issue has historic sites that are related to a specific theme. One issue would list Civil War battlefields and another would list historic sites in the southeastern states.

A third way that museums name their publications is to use a term or phrase that directly relates to their main theme. The Noble Maritime Collection, a museum within the complex of Old Sailor’s Snug Harbor on Staten Island, prints the newsletter called Hold Fast! This is a nautical term that means to stop immediately. It is a command that has been used aboard ships since the late 1600s.

The Penny Press is the quarterly newsletter for the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum in New York. Penny presses were sold to the public beginning in 1830 which was within the time period this former day hotel was in operation. Most newspapers during that time cost six cents but the penny press was for the working class. At one penny per issue, it was also a tabloid-style paper which contained a lot of sensational gossip, but also had articles on news topics.

The magazines mentioned in this article are a small sample of the array available. When museums name their magazines, they know this is an extension of the time period or style of painting or items in an collection. It is also a link between the museum and the public.

By Cynthia Collins


Smithsonian Magazine

National Museum of the American Indian Magazine

Preservation Magazine

National Maritime Historical Society

National Geographic Museum

The Thorny Art of Naming Magazines

Top photo: National Museum of the American Indian – Washington, D.C.

One Response to "How Museums Name Their Magazines"

  1. Adventures in Preservation   October 10, 2014 at 2:42 am

    We’re a nonprofit not with a magazine but a newsletter, which we’ve dubbed Destination: Preservation. Curious to see what people think of the name for us, Adventures in Preservation, whose tag line is Heritage travel with purpose, and whose mission is bringing people and preservation together through hands-on building conservation projects around the world. Input appreciated!


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