If the coronavirus has taught us one thing, it’s that creativity is alive and well in 2020. You might have thought a viral pandemic that has crippled health systems, paralyzed economies, and reshaped the social landscape globally would take a similar toll on cultural expression. But in many ways, quite the opposite is true.
Physical distancing and closed doors have certainly restricted access to culture in the traditional sense. For instance, you can’t visit a museum or attend a concert right now. But just as water takes the shape of its container, culture has shape-shifted with the times and produced some unique and heartening forms of creative expression – right when we need it most. To quote Jurassic Park, “life finds a way.”
International Museum Day 2020 and International Museum Week are going to look a little bit different this year. But in keeping with the slew of awesome culture projects and museum campaigns that have made a digital pivot in recent times, the International Council of Museums has decided that the show must go on(line).
Let’s take a look at some of the themes of Museum Week and International Museum Day 2020, 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 2020 edition will take place on May 18th.
What about Museum Week?
Museum Week is a worldwide festival celebrated by cultural institutions on social media. It takes place in the week running up to International Museum Day. It’s the online hype machine for the main event and is the time for museums to share their own program, build excitement, and foster engagement leading up to their International Museum Day events.
And the theme for International Museum Week 2020 is…
This year’s Museum Week’s theme is Togetherness. It’s perhaps ironic that this should be the theme for Museum Week 2020, given the fact that everyone is experiencing some degree of isolation right now. However, the theme was picked long before the outbreak of Covid-19, and in a way, it’s also a fitting idea to rally around now.
Each day in the leadup to International Museum Day, Museum Week will focus on one specific aspect of togetherness. Participating cultural organizations will celebrate inspirational forms of culture, connectivity, and kindness that have sprung up in the wake of the global lockdown. Every day will have its own hashtag that museums and members of the public can follow, share content about, alongside taking part in a host of online events and initiatives.
Museum Week in hashtags
Monday 11 May: #heroesMW
First up is #heroesMW. This is an opportunity for everyone to pay tribute to the bravery and tireless effort of health workers around the world, who are literally on the frontlines in the battle against Covid-19.
#heroesMW is an opportunity for museums and members of the public to organize and share content that helps direct the necessary awareness and economic support to these real-life superheroes.
Tuesday 12 May: #CultureInQuarantineMW
Next, Museum Week champions the brand new genre of cultural expression that is quarantine culture. Taking inspiration from the Getty Museum’s #ArtInQuarantine initiative, #CultureInQuarantineMW invites museums to come up with and share their own novel ways of enjoying culture from home.
Museums and institutions around the world have already been busy channeling their creative juices into fun, engaging campaigns to keep the cultural content flowing while people are unable to visit attractions in-person. From virtual tours and inventive social media campaigns to programs tailored to kids, there’s a wealth of content out there already. Get sharing!
Wednesday 13 May: #togetherMW
One of the most heartwarming things to come out of the coronavirus crisis has been the outpouring of love and mutual support from communities, families, friends – and even celebrities – during the unprecedented challenge of staying home without regular, in-person social contact.
This is perhaps the greatest struggle of our generation, and aside from the obvious public health disaster of the virus itself, the secondary damage to public mental health brought on by isolation and economic recession is a massive burden on many.
#togetherMW, the flagship theme for Museum Week, is a call to arms for people to stay connected; to keep in touch with each other, and look out for each other’s mental as well as physical wellbeing. The whole world is in this together, and we need each other now more than ever.
Thursday 14 May: #MuseumMomentsMW to recall memories
Thursday in Museum Week will take a trip down memory lane. It invites museums to share some of their proudest moments – the most exciting exhibitions, events, and memories from their history. While engaging with culture from home is great and necessary in these weird times, we all have a hankering for the before-times.
A little bit of nostalgia never hurt anyone, so #MuseumMomentsMW is here to help put people in touch with fond memories and awesome cultural events of the past. This will be the hall of fame of museum exhibitions, events, and festivities from the halcyon pre-pandemic days.
Friday 15 May: #climateMW
The Covid-19 pandemic has momentarily overshadowed the other challenges facing our world. In many ways, this is both understandable and justified, given the seriousness of the outbreak and the priority to contain it above all other matters.
However, there is another equally serious crisis unfolding around the world which requires urgent action: climate change. From forest fires ravaging Australia to hurricanes decimating the Caribbean, crop failures, coral reef bleaching, animal extinctions, and the consequent economic fallout, the climate crisis is the other great challenge of our time. And we are running out of time to fix it.
Amid a viral pandemic, climate change might seem less important. However, the deterioration of the planet’s ecosystems will have an even more detrimental long-term effect than even this awful pandemic. #climateMW is a chance for museums to stand up and be counted, and broadcast this message loud and clear: the time to start taking action was long ago – but we must start now.
Saturday 16 May: #technologyMW
All of these creative content campaigns push for togetherness, and online activism wouldn’t be possible without the incredible technological infrastructure of today. While social-distancing and lockdown present challenges for everyone, it’s almost unimaginable to think about how we would cope without our internet connections, media platforms, and technological devices.
The closure of museums and the pivot to online content has also drawn attention to the value of museums as a cultural medium. This goes beyond the brick-and-mortar physical exhibition spaces they tend to be associated with.
#technologyMW focuses on what museums can offer when their doors are closed. This campaign champions technology as very much a part of the future of museums, rather than just a novel way for people to plug the culture gap in times of lockdown. These unique and novel ways to engage with culture are here to stay. Thanks to technology, museums stand to benefit from their closure, in the long run.
Sunday 17 May: #dreamsMW
The week will finish with a day devoted to #dreamsMW and hope. These are challenging times, but the creative visions of artists, museums, and the wider cultural community have never been more important than now.
#dreamsMW invites everyone to share their hopes and dreams for the future, beyond the shadow of the coronavirus. We all need a bit of sunny optimism these days. It’s a reminder that even though things can seem bleak sometimes, this too shall pass.
International Museum Day 2020: Equality – Diversity and Inclusion
The theme for International Museum Day 2020 is Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion. This theme democratizes the museum space and experience for the community it operates in. You’re invited to celebrate the variety of perspectives that make up the museum landscape, from institutions and their social backdrops, to the diversity of visitors who consume cultural offerings.
It’s a far cry from the antiquated notion that museums are the unwavering custodians of prevailing, majority cultures. Instead, International Museum Day 2020 examines the potential of museums to create meaningful experiences for people of all origins and backgrounds, and by doing so, increasing the social value of such cultural organizations.
Amid the coronavirus crisis and the art world shifting to the online world, the meaning-making process between art objects and art consumers is more alive than ever before. There is no better opportunity for museums to showcase their social relevance than by engaging constructively in the political, social, and cultural realities of current society.
This year, the event will adopt a digital format and explore how diversity and inclusion can be experienced via the web. There will be talks with innovative museums that reach the public remotely, with an emphasis on ‘inclusion’, of course! No internet? No problem – join in on the day and find out how museums are connecting with people (like the elderly, for example) who have limited access to the internet.
The subversive role of museums in questioning power systems
With the theme Diversity and Inclusion, International Museum Day 2020 aims for museums to see their potential as a platform for equality. This can be done by facilitating and curating exhibitions, conferences, performances, and initiatives that can catalyze conversations about power relations between institutions and visitors.
Specifically, visitors that remain unseen in the museum-goer spectrum. The focus will be on confronting institutional bias in the overarching museum experience in relation to ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and identity, socioeconomic background, education level, physical ability, political affiliations, and religious beliefs. By doing so, we will have richer stories to tell about the myriad of cultures that we come from.
So mark your calendars and get ready to join this online festival of culture from May 11-18.