According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word museum first appears in the 1610s in reference to "the university building in Alexandria" (look up the Great Library of Alexandria.)
It comes from the Latin museum for "library, study, learned occupation," and from the Greek mouseion for "a place of study or library," and originally "a seat or shrine of the Muses" (Mousa for "Muse.") The earliest use in reference to English institutions was of libraries (e.g. British Museum.) It was first recorded in the sense of "building to display objects" in the 1680s.
Current definitions are:
A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.
An institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value; a place where objects are exhibited.
This means that a museum can be a building dedicated to the display of art, history, science, or technology, as well as an aquarium, a zoo, or a botanical garden.
Collected items, therefore, can be living objects.
The La Habra Historical Museum will soon be dedicating a plaque and a Swamp Lily that originally came across the prairie in the 1800s with the Launer family and planted on the site of our museum. The lily will be a living artifact of the museum; another one of our historical objects that ties the past to the present.
Look around your community and see what other living artifacts tie you and your community to the past.