Celebrate Museum Month With Us!
There is much to celebrate in the month of May. Not only is it Museum Month, but International Museum Day happens each year on or around May 18th. This year marked the 20th anniversary of International Museum Day, officially established in 1977 with the adoption of a resolution during the ICOM General Assembly in Moscow the annual event was created to unify the aspirations and efforts of museums and to draw worldwide attention to their work.
Each year ICOM selects a socially relevant theme for International Museum Day. The theme for 2017 was “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums.” Museums and other cultural institutions are meeting places, places where people can reconcile over often contested histories and work together toward a better, shared future.
Having worked on over 2,300 projects, we have helped museums tell many stories. We asked our team what the theme means to them. Here’s what they said:
Kathleen Brown, COO
“What I think of immediately is that museums aren’t always great at expressing their impact to society. What is unspoken is their value, generally. One institution that is ‘walking the walk’ is the California Academy of Sciences. They not only model sustainability but they advocate for it and look at the impact it has on society. They were the first LEED Platinum certified natural history museum of the 21st century.”
Kevin Valbonesi, Communications Coordinator
“To me, it means discussing what can be learned from history – especially the ugly bits – without fear of judgment or reprisals. The Canadian Museum of Humans Rights gives us space to reflect on some of humanity’s worst moments and their causes. With that knowledge, we can better avoid repeating those mistakes in the future.”
Sarah Hill, Senior Consultant
“As Canada celebrates its 150th year, there has been much discussion around the theme of reconciliation and the role that our museums and heritage sites can play in helping these communities to heal. What I’ve learned is that it is up to the Indigenous community and those people who have history in those places to decide. It is our role as cultural and museum leaders to help start the discussion. I have been privileged to be part of a great project team at Assiniboine Park Conservancy in Winnipeg, working with the Indigenous community as we move forward with our plans for Canada’s Diversity Gardens. ”
Mira Ovanin, Executive Assistant
“Museums are safe places where these issues can be discussed because people trust them more than any other medium of communication.”
Dr. Brad King, Vice President
“With regard to contested histories, museums have to provide opportunities for visitors to connect not only to these historic narratives but to relate around current events.”
Javier Jimenez, Director, Europe
“This year’s IMD Theme consolidates the trend from “hard power” to “soft power” in museums. From the authoritative voice, to multiple voices. If museums are open to the unspeakable and to the contested, it means visitors are empowered to bring and share their stories, their own views, no matter how different these may be from an official standpoint. This is to be celebrated and encouraged.”
Natalie Bornstein, Research Consultant
“When I read the theme for this year, I specifically thought of the Neues Museum in Berlin. The museum was heavily damaged during WW2 and was later restored by David Chipperfield. It reopened in 2009 and houses the Egyptian and Pre-History and Early History collections, the Papyrus Collection and parts of the antiquities collection as it did before the war. While walking amongst some of the most famous Egyptian artifacts, objects I have wanted to see for some time, I could not stop looking at the building itself and Chipperfield’s work. The intentionally preserved, partly destroyed interior reflects on what was lost.”