Introduction by Sharra Grow
Yep, it’s that time of year again! The 18th of May saw celebrations of ICOM International Museum Day from all around the world. This year’s theme was “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The future of tradition.” Here at IIC we collected stories of museum celebrations all the way from South Africa to Siberia. Read more about how these museums are promoting local culture, finding new ways to interact with their communities, and forging new traditions.
IMD: NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM OF FRANCE
On May 18, the National Air and Space Museum of France took part in the 15th annual European Museum Night, freely opening its doors to take visitors on a thrilling journey through the history of air and space conquest.
As part of the celebrations of the Museum’s centenary, this year’s event featured special activities highlighting the institution’s storied past, with original and never-before-seen footage from the museum’s film archives projected on a big screen in the WWII Hall.
At 6 pm, the first groups of visitors rushed to the Interwar Aircraft Hall to take part in the 3 treasure hunt events of the night, setting them on a quest to discover some of the Museum’s best kept secrets.
Visits, with a flashlight, in the dimly lit Space Exploration Hall were a huge hit, while special guided—and non-guided—visits of the Jumbo Jet and the Concorde drew the usual raving reviews from aircraft lovers.
Aspiring pilots were also able to take control of the Museum’s flight simulator to fly a plane by night, then put on the helmet and goggles of real Air Force pilots for a selfie to immortalize the evening with friends and family.
While the weather was not so kind as to allow visitors to observe Mars from the Museum’s tarmac, the planetarium offered a welcomed shelter for a film session on famed writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s high-risk missions as an Aéropostale pilot in the 1930s.
As the night wore on and the event drew to a close, visitors took time to break away and rest in the reading corner set up in the Rotorcraft Hall. When the Museum’s halls finally emptied out at 11pm, the last remaining visitors were rewarded with the glorious sight of the Museum’s Jumbo Jet and Ariane rockets lying under the Paris night sky.
THE UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA MUSEUMS UNMISSABLE IMD MONTH 2019
The University of Pretoria Museums (UP) have been proud ICOM-UMAC members for more than a decade. The UP Museums are nationally recognised for their immense respect for the university museum profession. They are further acknowledged as living examples of perseverance in pursuit of universities as cultural and research hubs for curatorial creativity and diligence in the conservation efforts of museum collections and archives. Comprised of twelve galleries which feature ceramics, art, sculpture and archaeological material, UP Museums’ high-quality exhibitions attract more than 40,000 visitors per year.
International Museum Day 2019 (which we have expanded to the entire month of May) provided an exciting array of collaborative activities initiated by the UP Museums bringing IMD to the wider attention of staff, students, academics and visitors alike. The Museums partnered with Campus Tours, a unique student-orientated business venture run by the honours fourth-year students of the Heritage and Cultural Tourism course under the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies.
Free museum tours were offered to staff and students, visitors from other universities, prospective students and their parents, school groups, learners and the wider public as well as domestic and international tourists. This year, to make IMD fun and to show that museums are creative and not boring places and spaces, Campus Tours offered the popular annual museum scavenger or treasure hunt to over 100 participating students, with complimentary museum books (featuring the University’s art and heritage collections) as prizes. We also celebrated ICOM IMD day on the campus graffiti wall.
In addition, the UP Museums took the opportunity to launch the ‘Museums Beyond Walls’ sculpture art route that explores over twenty-seven in situ public sculptures which dot the campus gardens and lecture halls. Contemporary sculptures are found between the historic buildings (some of which are architectural wonders). Some sculptures are even located on campus building rooftops in order to humanise campus spaces and to suggest that museums are more than just four walls. The hope is that ‘Museums Beyond Walls’ will create contemplation spaces among art, encourage debate and engage the community in celebrating university collections as cultural and artistic hubs of creativity.
Over 100 large IMD red locators visually joined museum buildings and student walkways linking museum collections, sculptures, spaces and places. The UP Museum IMD month, in association with UP Campus Tours, was undoubtedly an unmissable event that was widely promoted and marketed in print on brochures and posters, on social media platforms, numerous websites, massive digital LED plasma screens at the University’s entrance gates and on the ICOM interactive map to share a small part of an African university with the world.
INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM DAY IN NOVOSIBIRSK
On May 18th the Novosibirsk State Museum of Local History and Nature (Russia) participated in International Museum Day. This year special events were held at six museum venues: the Museum of Local History, the Museum of Nature, the Siberian Telecommunication Museum, the Olympic Glory Museum, the Museum “A city mansion of Novo-Nikolaevsk,” and the Tourist Museum Complex “The Suzun Factory and the Mint”. Almost 5,000 people joined the celebration of IMD.
The Novosibirsk State Museum of Local History and Nature presented various programs with an emphasis on the participation of the museum audience in the events, interaction with items on permanent display and partnership exhibition projects, and interactive features of the day’s activities. Even the history came alive that day and museum items started talking.
Visitors of the exhibitions “Ancient Siberia” and “History of the Novosibirsk Region” were surprised by ‘living’ showcases, where professional actors replaced mannequins. Also in these museum halls, everyone could take part in thematic multimedia quests and listen to fairy tales of native peoples of Siberia. Throughout the program members of the museum team were ready to answer any questions from visitors.
On this day, “The Eternity Game” opened at the Museum; this is an immersive exhibition that unites the metaphorical works of Yuri Shakhoyan, modern light installations, an original soundtrack, and amazing ceramics. The creative team, inspired by the author's work, created this exhibition as a ‘magnifying glass,’ which allows visitors to see in detail the multiform works of the artist, to immerse themselves into the world of his images, to interact with the material, and to dissolve in his eternity game.
In the Museum of Nature, a new program, “Talking Items,” was popular with visitors. Museum staff acted as mediums, helping visitors to communicate with items in the natural history exposition. Here visitors can see the most well-known exhibit, the complete skeleton of a female mammoth. Through the mediums, the exhibits told their own stories about how they were satisfied with their fate at the Museum and how their ‘life’ is coming along in showcases. Special excursion programs, thematic workshops, music, and theatrical events were held in the main building of the Novosibirsk State Museum of Local History and Nature and its branches.
TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM
To celebrate International Museum Day, the Tokyo National Museum presented a morning and afternoon lecture, “Introduction to the Tokyo National Museum,” given by Associate Fellow Abe Fuko in the Education Room. The Museum also held an IMD Commemorative Tour (held the Sunday before IMD) tied to this year’s annual collaborative exhibition with the Ueno Zoo and National Museum of Nature and Science. This annual exhibition, always animal themed, was featured in the Family Gallery Heiseikan Thematic Exhibition Room. The theme was “Animals with Horns and Antlers” such as deer, oxen, and rhinos. The exhibition showed how people (ancient to modern) have visually represented horns and antlers, including interpretations of these animals as sacred deified beasts.
WADSWORTH ATHENEUM MUSEUM OF ART INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM DAY
The theme of International Museum Day (IMD) 2019—Museums as Cultural Hubs: the Future of Tradition—provided us an opportunity to offer free admission and invite people to visit for the first time or experience the Wadsworth anew. IMD was full of tours led by museum docents in Spanish, French, Chinese, and English, drawing on the many stories illustrated by our exhibitions and collection of art spanning 5,000 years and encompassing European art from antiquity through contemporary as well as American art from the 1600s to today.
We began telling some of these stories throughout #MuseumWeek (May 13–19) on social media beginning with the arrival of Giorgione’s La Vecchia (1502–08). The Renaissance painting rarely leaves Italy, and the Wadsworth is one of only two cities in the United States to host the masterpiece. Visitors to the Museum on IMD experienced the painting in a newly renovated gallery space designed for an intimate moment with the singular work of art.
The day kicked off with a gathering of Hartford Public School students and their families for an award ceremony recognizing works by student artists featured in the 46th Hartford Youth Art Renaissance (HYAR) exhibition. HYAR celebrates the talent of students in grades pre-K through 12 with a juried show of student artwork submitted by teachers from across the district.
IMD featured Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin (2018) in a gallery talk led by Midori Yamamura, professor at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY and author of Yayoi Kusama: Inventing the Singular (2015). Visitors heard about the alluring sculpture and it’s maker and took advantage of an afternoon tour of Sean Scully: Landline for a last look at the exhibition in its final days on view.
Tours and talks were not the only things to be heard in the galleries; musicians performed selections of world music throughout the afternoon. Lute player Hideki Yamaya, a New Haven-based musician, who specially recorded music for the Giorgione exhibition, performed in Avery Court, and a University of Connecticut student ensemble performed music from the sixteenth to eighteenth-century on period instruments in Morgan Great Hall.
International Museum Day 2019 was a celebratory day to gather, experience art, and forge connections at the Wadsworth.
(For the full story with all pictures, see "News in Conservation" Issue 72, June 2019 here: https://issuu.com/nic_iiconservation/docs/nic-magazine-june2019-issuu)