International Museum Day 2021: Theme, History, Quotes, Significance

International Museum Day is observed every year on May 18. Museums all across the world participate in the celebration of this day. The observance is coordinated worldwide by the International Council of Museums (ICOM).

Objective of the International Museum Day

The objective of International Museum Day is to highlight the importance of museums. This day provides an opportunity for the museums and their professionals to raise awareness about the role of museums as well as the challenges faced by them.

In exact words of ICOM, International Museum Day was created with the intent to convey the message that “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples”.

What is a Museum?

ICOM defines a museum as “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.”

International Museum Day Timeline

The background of the creation of International Museum Day has a long history. It was a step-by-step effort.

Crusade of Museums (1951)

ICOM convened a meeting in 1951 gathering the entire international museum community to conduct a discussion on the theme “Museums and Education”. The meeting was named Crusade of the Museum. The idea of an International Museum day was rooted in this meeting for the first time.

international museum day

International Museum Day Resolution (1977)

A resolution was passed before the ICOM General Assembly held in Moscow, Russia. The resolution adopted the proposal of the creation of an annual event that can reiterate the importance and role of the museum. Finally, the day was established officially as International Museum Day.

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One Theme Uniting Museum Community (1992)

International Museum Day started gaining popularity among museums, and the annual event favored diversity in unity. This was for the first time that ICOM proposed a theme for the event. The first theme suggested by ICOM in 1992 was “Museums and Environment.” Since then this annual observance is organized around a theme.

Theme based Poster Launched (1997)

In 1997, the first official poster related to that year’s theme (fighting illicit traffic in cultural goods) was launched by ICOM. This was adapted by 28 countries.

Steps towards better communication (2011)

Introduction of institutional partners, communication, and a website strengthened communication.

Theme of International Museum Day 2021

Since 1992, ICOM has been selecting a dedicated theme for each year’s International Museum Day. The theme revolves around contemporary issues prevailing in society during that time.

Theme for International Museum Day 2021 is “The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine”.

Themes of International Museum Day in previous years

  • 2020: Museum for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion
  • 2019: Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition
  • 2018: Hyper connected museum: New approaches, new public
  • 2017: Museums and Contested Histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums
  • 2016: Museums and Cultural Landscapes
  • 2015: Museums for a Sustainable Society
  • 2014: Museum collections make connections
  • 2013: Museums (memory + creativity = social change)
  • 2012: Museums in a changing world. New challenges, new inspirations
  • 2011: Museum and memory
  • 2010: Museums for social harmony
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