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International Museum Day is here once again, with the theme “Museums for a Sustainable Society”

Since 1977, every year on and around 18 May, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) promotes International Museum Day (IMD). This is a unique moment for the international museum community to plan creative events and activities related to the IMD theme, to engage with their public and highlight the importance of the role of museums as institutions that serve society and its development.

International Museum Day is here once again, with the theme “Museums for a Sustainable Society”

From Peru to Papua New Guinea, from Uganda to Kuwait, museums are inventive in raising the public’s awareness on the subject of sustainable society. This year, more than 35,000 museums from some 130 countries are expected to celebrate International Museum Day for a day, a weekend or whole week. Some 400 activities are featured on the official IMD website: http://imd.icom.museum 

ICOM President travels to Peru to inaugurate a week-long celebration of International Museum Day – a first

Prof. Dr Hans-Martin Hinz, ICOM President, kicked off the week-long IMD celebration in Peru, as the first ICOM president to visit the country. He visited the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu and Peru’s Northern Chan Chan ruins and declared: “In 2010, UNESCO defined culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development. Cultural institutions, and museums in particular, lie at the very heart of all efforts to promote sustainability. Museums are a clear illustration of the pivotal role of cultural sustainability today. Culture and museums are points of departure for the development of a sustainable society. As such, museums are a cornerstone for peace, as they strive towards ‘the enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding and cooperation’.”

Sustainability at the heart of discussions

Museums in Italy are particularly eager to debate this year’s theme, with a number of events: a seminar on “Economic sustainability for museums” in Venice; a roundtable on “Accessibility for sustainable museum institutions” in Ancona; and a week full of scientific programmes during which museum peers exchanged ideas, sharing new perspectives and experiences.

Organised and promoted by the Province of Avellino, Italy, "Sc’Arti in Mostra” is the title of the initiative, which takes the form of an exhibition resulting from an art competition inspired by the themes of reuse and recycling of waste through art. The exhibition, open to all, supports the culture of recycling, revealing and promoting the hidden potential for everything to change into something new, for all forms to mutate and acquire new identities. 

In other parts of the world, children drew their “tree of life” as a symbol of sustainability and the icon of IMD poster; museums encourage their visitors to use public transport or ride bikes to come to the museums; workshops using recycled materials were also among the awareness-raising campaigns in different museums.

Bardo Museum back on the international stage

Following the terrible attack in March, the Bardo National Museum in Tunis participated in International Museum Day celebrations with a roundtable on the theme “Mosaics, a factor of sustainable development”, highlighting its precious mosaics collections. Organised by ICOM’s National Committee in Tunisia and the Association of Friends of the Heritage (Association des amis du Patrimoine), the workshop was followed by a guided tour of the museum.


The Museum of Science and the Cosmos in Tenerife has organised family events relating to the cosmos and scientific “myths”, and observation of the Sun. What better way to teach children about sustainability than learning about the environment with their parents?

Five museums in South Africa organised an exciting treasure hunt on their premises. 

The Uganda Museum in Kampala encouraged visitors to take a tree home or to plant a tree within the museum space to contribute to a sustainable environment. The National Forest Authority offered trees for this cause.

Night at the museums

ICOM has been a partner of the European Night of Museums since 2011, but museums organise nocturnal activities beyond Europe as well. This year, six members of the Viña del Mar y Valparaíso museum network (Red ViVa es la red de museos de Viña del Mar y Valparaíso), in Chile, opened their doors for guided tours, lectures and special activities on Saturday night. 

Free entrance and guided tours

In other museums, free entrance or guided tours were offered in order to attract “non-museum-goers”:  in the name of sustainability, a number of museums focus on “museums for all” in opening up for free over the weekend or keeping their doors open on Monday, 18 May, a day when they are usually closed to the public.

The objective of International Museum Day is to raise awareness of the idea that “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” 

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