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May 18, 2020

International Museum Day 2020: President’s Message

Happy International Museum Day!

Today, as every 18th of May since 1977, the global museum community comes together for the International Museum Day. This year, the celebration is being marked in the most exceptional circumstances since its establishment. It seems like a strange time to celebrate, as thousands of museums remain closed and the uncertainty of what will happen in the coming months overwhelms our thoughts. Yet it is precisely now that we need to spread the message of the International Museum Day.

This global celebration was created with a clear objective: to promote museums as an important means for the development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples. Peace is often -and wrongly- associated with the absence of war. The Covid-19 crisis, far from being a conflict as we conventionally understand it, demonstrates that the reality is much more complex.

As there is no peace without equal opportunity, representation and access for all; there is no peace without decolonising our institutions and minds; and there is no peace without a sustainable future for our planet. Museums, with their ability to build a common ground of understanding based on cultural exchange and dialogue, have the power to contribute a great deal in advancing our pursuit for a real, lasting peace.

With the theme Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion, International Museum Day 2020 aims to become a rallying point for both museums and civil society in general, because this day is not only about museums: it is a celebration of every single person who makes them the places of wonder that they are. It is about wide-eyed schoolchildren, passionate curators, art enthusiasts, dedicated security people, occasional visitors. It is about our natural heritage and its outstanding biodiversity. It is about our common memory and the diversity that unites us in our differences.

In this edition, we want to celebrate the manifold perspectives that make up museums, their communities and people, and to champion tools for identifying and overcoming bias in what they display and the stories they tell. These ambitions are not limited to the 18th of May, we will pursue them for as long as they are needed, alongside the trailblazing museum professionals who are already at the frontline of the quest for equality.

On this 18th of May, I want to send you a message of hope. We must keep moving forward while nurturing the spirit of solidarity, resilience and innovation we have found. Each one of us has an important role to play in reimagining and building a future based on equality, diversity and inclusion. On behalf of the global community of the International Council of Museums, I wish you a happy International Museum Day 2020!


Suay Aksoy

ICOM President