International Museum Day is celebrated on May 18 to encourage people to visit and enjoy museums, and to raise awareness about the challenges that museums face that they can only survive with the support of their communities.
The day is hosted by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) which invites museums all over the world to participate in the day's commemorations. ICOM encourages museums to engage with the public, and teach them about museums' contributions to our education, and to society's development.
History of International Museum Day
In 1977, the International Council of Museums set out to create a day when museums around the world could promote their role in the community, and educate people on how important it is to visit and support museums. Highlighting how valuable and crucial they are as a source of education, and a tool that connects us to our past and history.
One of ICOM's goals is to support the global museum community and to protect objects of cultural heritage, that preserve history and are significant for different cultures.
This holiday has been celebrated ever since, and it has risen in popularity with more and more countries and museums joining the day's activities over the years. More recently, around 30,000 museums in over 150 countries have participated on International Museum Day.
Every year there is a different theme highlighted for International Museum Day, which reflects a particular preoccupation that is affecting the international museum community. Some past themes have included:
- 2017 - Museums and Contested Histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums
- 2018 - Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics
- 2019 - Museums as Cultural Hubs: the Future of Tradition
- 2020 - Museum for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion
- 2021 - The Future of Museums: Recover and Imagine
The International Museum Day theme for 2022 was 'The Power of Museums'.
In order to reach a younger audience, the popular videogame Animal Crossing: New Horizons held an International Museum Day event in their gameplay, on May 18, 2020.
Why do we Celebrate International Museum Day?
According to the ICOM, it is important to celebrate museums as they are non-profit, permanent institutions in their communities They serve society and help its development, by conserving cultural artifacts, and researching history and science. They make artifacts and information accessible to the public in order to educate them and provide them with enjoyment.
Museums preserve art, pieces of history, and invaluable objects of human and animal heritage, which could be lost forever or damaged if it weren't for the professionals who research them and care for them. If it weren't for museums, we wouldn't be able to see, understand, and experience the many artifacts that map out our history and development as a society. International Museum Day reminds us to support our local museums so that they can keep educating people and serving their community.
How to Celebrate International Museum Day
Thousands of museums participate in the activities for this day, they offer free entry, workshops, performances, and educational seminars, encouraging people to start visiting museums again. Wherever you are, make an effort to visit a local museum today, and show your support for the work they do. If you can't, many international museums offer virtual tours on their website, so that you can still access all those cultural artifacts and art from the comfort of your own home.
- Start a recurring donation to a museum of your choice, as museums need the support of their patrons to remain open.
- Learn something about unusual and obscure museums that you haven't heard of, and make a note to visit them if you're ever around.
- Make a commitment to visit at least one museum whenever you travel to a new city.