Created in 1946 by and for museum experts from 136 countries and territories, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) was established to respond to the challenges museums face worldwide. Fighting illicit traffic of objects, art and cultural mediation, museum emergency program, intangible heritage and cultural tourism, became a core concern at the time.
Crusade for museums; Before officially creating IMD (International Museums Day), ICOM gathered the international community, in 1951, for a meeting called; Crusade for museums, to discuss the theme, “Museums and education”. The idea of IMD came to be inspired by then, by the framework for museums accessibility developed at the meeting.
The 1977 revolution; IMD was officially established in 1977 with the adoption of a revolution during ICOM general assembly in Moscow, Russia to create an annual event “with the aim of further unifying the creative aspirations and efforts of museums and drawing the attention of the world public to their activity”.
Every year since 1977, IMD is organized worldwide around May 18th. This day is an occasion to raise awareness on how important museums are in the development of society. The activities to mark the celebrations can last a day, a week, or even a month. Participation in IMD has grown and still growing among museums over the world. In 2015/16, more than 35000 museums participated in the event in some 145 countries.
2017, under the theme, “Museums and contested histories: saying the unspeakable in museums” has caught the attention of many countries than ever before. On this day, participating museums around the world planned creative events and activities related to the above theme, engaged with the public their public and highlighted the importance of the role of museums as institutions that serve society and development.
Lessons from the theme
History is vital in defining a given people’s identity, and each one of us is defined through important and fundamental historic events. Unfortunately, contested histories are isolated traumatic events, these histories that are often little known or misunderstood resonate universally, as they concern and affect us all.
Museum collections offer reflections of memories and representations of history. IMD is therefore to provide an opportunity to show how museums display and depict memories to encourage visitors to think beyond their own individual experiences. By focusing on the role of museums as hubs for promoting peaceful relationship between people, this year’s theme highlights how the acceptance of a contested history is the first step in envisioning a shared future under the banner of reconciliation. Museums are important means of cultural exchanges, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, co-operation and peace among people.
Rwanda museums & IMD: a week to be remembered
The Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR), under the theme, “Umuco wacu Inkingiy’Ubunyarwanda” (Our culture, Rwandan identity), joined the rest of the world in celebrating IMD. The activities started with open door day, on 18th/ May, where the general public was invited, free of charge, to visit all museum branches in the country. The event was a success, to the tune that saw many schools and the local communities around visit nearby museums in large numbers (4,231) tentatively.
The second activity to commemorate IMD was held on 20th/May/2017. The competitions that were organized between different schools in Nyanza at the National Art Gallery (NAG) were exciting, challenging, and worth it. The judges for the day were left mesmerized by the outstanding performances exhibited by students. The results for the winners were held up until 26th/5/2017, when IMD will be celebrated officially in Rwanda/Nyanza district.
This week on 25th/May, 2017, is yet another activity that will involve INMR in partnership with media houses in Rwanda, touring the National Liberation Museum Park in Gicumbi, Nyanza, and Huye museums as well.
To sum up the D-day celebrations, IMD will be hosted at the National Art Gallery (NAG) in Nyanza. The day will be blessed by the carnival walk around Nyanza town up to the museum. More cultural entertainments and performances will be exhibited.
- Rwanda National Museum
By David Nkusi
The author is a Cultural Heritage Analyst/ Philosophical studies expert