Car Collection vs. Car Museum: What’s the Difference?

The history of cars is shrouded in mystery. It is debatable to say when the first automobile was actually made. That hasn’t stopped us from developing an interest in them.

It took only a few decades for the popularity of cars to grow. The first known group of collectors – the Antique Automobile Club of America – formed in 1935 (Reina, “These 5 Trends Show How the Collector Car Hobby Is Shifting Gears.”). Today, the number of car clubs is in the hundreds and maybe even the thousands. That doesn’t account for the growing number of people who have their own car collections.

In fact, our very own museum – Klairmont Kollections Automotive Museum – started off as a private car collection. It wasn’t until 2019 that the collection was transformed into a museum and opened to the public.

But what exactly is the difference between a car collection and a car museum? And why is it important that we switched models?

To understand the difference between the two, we must first understand what each one is.

What is a car collection?

A car collection is exactly what it sounds like – a collection of cars. These collections are usually assembled by a private individual or group. The cars in these collections are acquired based on personal preference and passion. Often car collectors choose cars that they have a personal connection to.

By nature, a private collection isn’t required to be open to the public. In fact, they typically aren’t. Most private collections are only opened if the owner(s) decide they want to share their passion in collecting automobiles. Ultimately, these collections are formed and maintained for personal enjoyment.

Additionally, there are no guidelines or requirements for the types of cars that are collected. There are also no guidelines for how the cars are arranged and displayed. Arrangements of cars in private collections vary based on the preferences of the owner(s).

A car museum is also a collection of cars, but it’s one with a greater purpose.

What is a car museum?

By definition a museum is a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets, and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage (International Council of Museums, “Museum Definition – International Council of Museums.”).

This means that, by nature, a car museum should regularly be open to the public and aim to engage while educating. Car museums allow visitors to explore the displayed vehicles. Some museums even offer spaces to hold events and interact with the collection.

As mentioned previously, car museums don’t only exist to simply display cars to the public. They primarily exist to educate the public on the history, evolution, and impact of automobiles. As a result, the cars acquired for the museum are collected with this in mind.

Museums carefully curate their collections to tell a cohesive story about automobiles. Collections and exhibits are organized chronologically, thematically, or by manufacturer. This differs from private collections, where cars get organized by personal preference.

Ultimately, car museums exist to preserve automotive heritage, showcase the evolution of automobiles, and provide a learning experience for the public.

Why was the switch important for Klairmont Kollections?

For Klairmont Kollections Automotive Museum, transitioning from a private collection to a public museum was crucial if it wanted to survive beyond the years of its founder Larry Klairmont. The KKAM is the legacy of that private collector Larry Klairmont and stands as a gift to the public at large.

Larry’s mission with his collection was to educate and engage current and future generations about the transformational role that automobiles and their creators have played throughout history. The cars tell stories and serve as waypoints throughout modern history.

Becoming a public museum allows us to reach a wider audience to make this mission possible. It gives us a guiding direction about the selling and purchasing of cars for the museum. It also influences the arrangement and display of our exhibits.

At KKAM, there are many different avenues for car enthusiasts to explore – and each avenue has their own unique charm.

If you’re looking for your next car museum to explore, we invite you to take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of cars at Klairmont Kollections Automotive Museum. Our museum is a testament to the evolution of automobiles, showcasing rare one-of-a-kind cars, iconic classics, and the fascinating stories that accompany them.

Experience the thrill of stepping into a realm where every car tells a tale, and where the love for automotive heritage comes to life!