Every year since 1977, ICOM has organized International Museum Day (IMD), which represents a unique moment for the international museum community. On this day, participating museums plan events and activities related to the International Museum Day’s theme, engage with their public and highlight the importance of the role of museums as institutions that serve society and its development.
The objective of International Museum Day is to raise awareness of the fact that “Museums are important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” Organized on and around 18 May each year, the events and activities planned to celebrate International Museum Day can last a day, a weekend or a whole week.
Participation in International Museum Day is growing among museums all over the world. In 2018, more than 40,000 museums participated in the event in some 158 countries.
This year the International Museum Day (IMD), under the supervision of ICOM, is celebrated on the 18th of May. This day is an occasion to raise awareness on how important museums are in the development of society. Hence, each year ICOM selects a theme for the International Museum Day that is at the heart of the concern of society. Hence, this year’s theme is “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The future of tradition.”
The role of museums in society is changing. Museums keep reinventing themselves in their quest to become more interactive, audience-focused, community-oriented, flexible, adaptable and mobile. They have become cultural hubs functioning as platforms where creativity combines with knowledge and where visitors can also co-create, share and interact.
While preserving their primary missions – collecting, conservation, communication, research, exhibition – museums have transformed their practices to remain closer to the communities they serve. Today, they look for innovative ways to tackle contemporary social issues and conflict. By acting locally, museums can also advocate and mitigate global problems, striving to meet the challenges of today’s society proactively. As institutions at the heart of society, museums have the power to establish dialogue between cultures, to build bridges for a peaceful world and to define a sustainable future.
As museums increasingly grow into their roles as cultural hubs, they are also finding new ways to honour their collections, their histories and their legacies, creating traditions that will have new meaning for future generations and relevance for an increasingly diverse contemporary audience at a global level. This transformation, which will have a profound impact on museum theory and practice, also forces us to rethink the value of museums and to question the ethical boundaries that define the very nature of our work as museum professionals.
At once a focal point for the community and an integral part of a global network, museums offer a platform for translating local communities’ needs and views into a global context.
In Eritrea, given its huge heritage resources, there are two museums. These are the National Museum in Asmara and the Northern Red Sea Regional Museum at the port city of Massawa. The National Museum was established in 1992 while the Northern Red Sea Regional Museum opened eight years later, in the year 2000. These museums have different sections and include collections of archaeological relics, arts, the military, as well as natural collections of marine and terrestrial animals. The sections generally exhibit remnants of cultural, ecological and fossil artifacts.
Both museums have similar mandates and range of activities. They are responsible for the storage, exhibition and conservation of Eritrea`s cultural heritage. Moreover, they engage in documentation, restoration, and inspection of heritage-related activities. Outreach activities are another fundamental mandate of these museums. However, so far, very little work has been done related to this activity.
Museums are not just buildings and collections. They are institutions that serve as cultural hubs, determined to realize their full potential for society. They bear out a relationship with the past that attaches value to tangible traces left by our ancestors and, therefore, play a key role in fostering social cohesion. They improve people’s lives by stimulating inspiration, learning and enjoyment. Museums have two-way relationship with society, drawing a wide range of skills, knowledge, experience and networks. They also create relationships by welcoming people as active participants.
The relations between museums and society are explicitly earned through handwork and successive awareness activities because society benefits from museums and museums work with communities to collect and represent a place’s diverse and collective history and heritage. For example, this year, the International Museum Day (IMD) has devised a timely theme for the establishment of a favorable ground that permits interaction with the communities and celebrate traditions world-wide. These plans can be, for example, achieved by organizing seminars, regular site and museum visits, publications, etc. Such activities are essential in creating a strong bond between museums and society.Museums play a decisive role in consolidating national identity and stewardship. Hence, like all museums in the world and following this year’s theme of ICOM, the two Eritrean museums are expected to commemorate the 2019 International Museum Day (IMD) through community-based celebrations. Eritrea’s priceless traditions must be preserved and disseminated on a regular basis. Our museums should actively serve as learning, economic, and cultural hubs, not merely buildings and collections.