Activities for celebrating museums' day go digital

Thursday May 21 2020

Kenge Kenge Orotu System perform at a past International Museum Day.

Members of Kenya's Kenge Kenge Orotu System perform at a past International Museum Day. This year's celebrations will be held online. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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This year’s International Museum Day that fell on May 18 went digital as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) invited museums from all over the world to host online activities and share these on an interactive map on its website.

Under the theme “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”, the International Museum Day 2020 aimed at becoming a rallying point to celebrate the diversity of the communities and personnel of museums, and overcome bias in what they display and the stories they tell.

“The potential of museums to create meaningful experiences for people of all origins and backgrounds is central to their social value. As agents of change and trusted institutions, there is no time like the present for museums to demonstrate their relevance by engaging constructively in the political, social, and cultural realities of modern society,” ICOM said in a statement.

“The challenges of inclusion and diversity and the difficulty of navigating complex social issues in increasingly polarised environments, while not unique to museums and cultural institutions, are important ones, due the high regard in which museums are held by society,” ICOM added.

According to ICOM, social change is seen through exhibitions, conferences, performances, education programmes, and initiatives created. However, there remains much to do to overcome power dynamics that can create disparities within museums, and between museums and their visitors.


These disparities relate to issues like ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and identity, socioeconomic background, education level, physical ability, political affiliation and religious beliefs.

ICOM established the International Museum Day in 1977 to increase public awareness of the role of museums in the development of society. In 2019, the International Museum Day had more than 55, 000 museums hosting events in some 150 countries.

For museums that want to organise activities on site once the lockdowns are over, ICOM proposes an alternative date — a three-day celebration between November 14 and November 16, 2020.