Like pretty much every major event of the cultural calendar this year, International Museum Day 2021 is taking place with a markedly different format in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The long stretches of closed doors and physical distancing have forced museums and cultural institutions around the world to rethink their approach and even their purpose in a post-pandemic world, leading many to reorganize how they present their collections and how they interact with the public.
In keeping with the slew of awesome cultural projects and museum campaigns that have made a digital pivot in recent times, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has decided that the show must go on(line). And so the theme for this year’s International Museum Day is Museums of the Future: Recover and Reimagine, with which they “invite museums and cultural communities to create, imagine and share new practices of (co-)creation of value, new business models for cultural institutions and innovative solutions for the social, economic and environmental challenges of the present.”
And museums from all over the world have heeded the call! With hundreds of awesome virtual events taking place on 18 May, beaming in from every corner of the Earth, International Museum Day 2021 looks set to be one of the cultural highlights of the year. No matter what your area of interest is, you’re bound to find something fascinating, inspiring, thought-provoking, or downright fun.
Let’s take a look at some of the events of International Museum Day 2021, and find out what we can look forward to in this year’s unique edition.
Hold up! What is International Museum Day?
International Museum Day is an annual day of cultural reflection and celebration. It’s when museums across the world host events designed to raise public awareness about the role museums play in fostering art and safeguarding cultural heritage.
In other words, International Museum Day is designed to showcase the ways in which museums contribute towards the development of society through research, patronage of the arts, and the curation/exhibition of civilization’s greatest achievements and challenges.
Each year, a specific theme is chosen that reflects the cultural zeitgeist and issues that the international museum community is tasked with bringing to public attention.
When is International Museum Day?
International Museum Day takes place every year, either on or around May 18th. The 2021 edition will take place on May 18th.
International Museum Day 2021: Recover and Reimagine
The theme for International Museum Day 2021 is ‘The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine’. Despite the devastating economic impact of closed doors, the pandemic forced museums and cultural attractions to think up all-new forms of engagement with both the public and with their own collections. This has helped to nudge museums – the venerable old institutions that they are – a step or two into the digital age, and the results have been pretty awesome.
From incredibly creative social media campaigns to Google Arts & Culture coming into its own in 2020 to the countless virtual tours and special events carried by museums during lockdown, the amazing creative potential of museums, as well as the huge public appetite for new ways to experience and enjoy culture, have become evident over the last year or so. Tiqets’ very own Webby-nominated Culture Festival was more recent proof that culture from home can be hugely enjoyable.
These new ways to experience culture are here to stay, and while full recovery is still in the early days, the future is looking fascinating and bright. The cultural landscape and the role of museums in it are going forward will be front and centre of International Museum Day 2021, with dozens of webinars and workshops exploring the topic, alongside a host of more culturally specific exhibitions and events.
International Museum Day 2021: What’s On?
There are quite literally hundreds of events taking place on and around International Museum Day 2021, and you can browse all of the events on ICOM’s interactive map. With several continents’ worth of museums involved, it can be overwhelming to know where to even begin. So we’ve hand-picked a couple of standout events to give you an idea about what to expect from this year’s International Museum Day. Designed for museum professionals and the public alike, these free events are open to anyone with an interest in the future of museums. Here’s a cross-section of just some of the awesome events taking place.
18 May 2021 (16:00-17:00 CET)
As museums reopen, museum professionals confront a changing landscape where it comes to digital engagement. The pandemic has changed how we use these technologies and what we use them for. How will museums not only recover from the pandemic, but re-imagine how they work in 2021 and beyond? This is the central theme of a webinar hosted by the Brussels’ House of European History, which will explore the current landscape of digital transformation in Europe and how smaller institutions can accelerate their own digital efforts.
With a panel of experts from across Europe and the U.S., this English-language webinar will cover topics like:
- What it means to be a digitally mature museum, and what types of skills, training, and support museum educators need to reach online audiences
- Key ingredients of successful digital transformation efforts
- Understanding & maximizing the impact of your museum’s digital engagement, using the experience of the House of European History, which is on its own journey of digital transformation
Virtual Conference: Museums and Markets: Perspectives on Income Generation in a Post-Pandemic World, Chapman University, California
Tuesday 18 – Thursday 20 May, 2021
Taking a similar point of departure, this three-day virtual conference at California’s Chapman University will address the cultural impact of new marketization strategies and explore the future of museums and heritage sites, and how they can become more embedded within the creative and cultural Industries. The conference will take place across three sessions:
- Museums, Heritage and Economy: Reimagining Business Models – 18 May, 09:00-11.00 PDT (17.00-19.00 BST)
- Exploring New Partnerships: Museums, Heritage and the Creative Economy – 19 May, 09:00-11.00 PDT (17.00-19.00 BST)
- Culture Cash: Emerging Methods of Monetization – 20 May, 09:00-11.00 PDT (17.00-19.00 BST)
Taking the learnings of the COVID-19 economic fallout, the three morning sessions will bring together academics and practitioners in the cultural space, to discuss ways that museums and heritage sites can leverage digital opportunities to develop both online and off-site revenues to create forms of cultural consumption that are ultimately more engaging, commercially successful and economically sustainable.
Tuesday, 18 May, 2021 from 06:45pm to 08:00pm
The magnificent gem collection at the National Museum of Natural History represents a glimmering intersection of natural science, human history, culture, romance, artistic skill, and creativity, all wrapped up in the perennial mystique of rarity, immense value, and beguiling beauty that precious gemstones have seemingly held throughout history.
Jeffrey Post, the curator of the U.S. National Gem and Mineral Collection, reveals the scandals, mysteries, and human stories behind some of the world’s most famous gems.
Wednesday, 19 May, 2021 from 17:30 pm to 18:30 pm (PST)
Foodies rejoice! This very appetizing virtual event will let you tour the Museum of Vancouver’s (MOV) latest feature exhibition, A Seat at the Table: Chinese Immigration and British Columbia, during Asian Heritage Month in Vancouver. Led by local Chinese Canadian Artist, Paul Wong, the tour will give guests a personal insight into several of the artworks he created for this exhibition, with personal anecdotes and stories that offer a window into his world as both an artist, and the Chinese Canadian experience. There’ll be a short Q&A session afterward.
A Seat at the Table looks at Chinese immigration to British Columbia as a story that is both local and global, steeped in historical complexity and contemporary relevance. Using food and restaurant culture as a point of departure, A Seat at the Table features stories that point to the great diversity of immigrant experiences and of the communities that immigrants develop, as well as the importance of food as a cultural bridge builder.
In celebration of Asian Heritage Month in Vancouver and International Museums Day, this virtual tour of A Seat at the Table will give participants an inside look into the works of this prolific and talented artist and provide a personal reflection on the entire exhibition project.
Tuesday May 18
The world around us has changed drastically in the last year, and of all the senses that have been stifled and deprived, touch has been one of the most dramatically affected. With the introduction of masks, gloves, and social distancing, we have been deprived of handshakes, touching, of embracing, and not without consequence to our emotional and social wellbeing.
To celebrate International Museum Day 2021, the Cultural Venue Islahane in Thessaloniki, Greece has asked the public to reflect on this new tactile reality, and capture it with photographs, sketches, collages, or any other creative medium which captures the strange time of contactless contact.
All of the entries will be posted on their website and Facebook page on May 18th, and promises to be an insightful, humorous, and touching reminder of the unprecedented time when everyone was quite literally out of touch.