In Museum Skepticism, David Carrier explores both the development and what he argues to be the decline of the public art museum as a democratic institution. Carrier shows that by studying the history of museums and collecting we can understand the transformative point at which the art museum has now arrived; the public art museum has to reinvent itself in order to stay relevant to contemporary life and by extension to its visitors. Carrier argues that this reinvention should be inspired by popular or mass culture, as this is what nowadays attracts and interests the majority of people.
By looking at key figures in various fields of the museum world, such as collectors, curators and museum architects, Carrier shows that the public museum is something to be interpreted and studied instead of simply being taken as a container for high art. The book includes several case studies of important figures in the history of collection and display - such as Baron Dominique vivant Denon, the 1st director of the Louvre, Bernard Berenson who was Isabella Gardner’s art adviser and helped her to establish her collection and Richard Meier, the architect of the J. Paul Getty Museum - which show that all these various roles within the art world have had a tremendous impact on how museums and collections have developed, and how we currently view the art museum and its need for transformation.