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1995 "Response and Responsibility"

On 18th May 1995, museums throughout the world celebrated International Museums Day on the theme of Museum solidarity: Response and responsibility.

This annual event, which was originally created by ICOM in 1977, and has since been taken up by its National Committees in 102 countries, offers the opportunity for raising public awareness in relation to the important role museums play in society.

The aim of the theme, which was chosen during the Advisory Committee Assembly in June 1994, was to show how museums could respond to society's needs. For a better understanding of the role and vocation of a museum, one has to define its responsibilities. The Response and Responsibility question is born out by the daily life of any museum: problems of theft, restitution, profit, preservation, cooperation and exhange are daily, universal museum issues.

To celebrate the day in Brazil, a discussion group was organised on the theme of marketing in museums. In the Philippines, seminar on "Basic Conservation" was organised by the Association for the Scientific Conservation of Cultural Property.

In Algeria, and in particular the museum in Tipasa, discussions on the theme of "Revived heritage" resulted in the decision to "cooperate with civilians and the public to commemorate the Day, and to stress the importance of the local population's involvement in its heritage." In this spirit, the museum joined other associations to celebrate the event. In Switzerland, with a view to drawing up an aid program for Sarajevo, the National Committee sought cooperation with other associations, such as the Swiss Museum Association, the Swiss Association for Conservation and Restoration, and the Ethnographic Society.

The Greek National Committee organised a series of activities based on the theme of "Museums and safeguarding cultural heritage".

In a lot of countries International Museums Day was transformed into a Museums Week. In Peru, for instance, the events which focused mainly on the theme of the museum as a place for preserving the collective memory, stretched over a week.

International Museums Day in Kenya deserves special mention. It was the first time that the Nairobi Museum had organised activities on such a scale. Not only were there videos and traditional dances but also exhibitions put together by the staff on work carried out by various museum departments. This was a great success with the local population. Debates broadcast on radio and television, as well as posters distributed by the museum, added to the impact of the event.
Indeed, it is interesting to note that in most cases museums and National Committees made a big effort as regards communication and advertising. In Denmark, for instance, 1,000 posters and 5,000 brochures were sent out for the Day.

One of the actions museums often organise for the 18th May, is that of free entrance, as was the case in Cyprus last year. In Canada, Montreal's 21 museums were free of charge, and a special transport service, also free, was arranged for the Day.

Another interesting experience was the publication in Morocco of a catalogue entitled "The thread of the past, embroidery and textiles" illustrating the embroidery and textile collection of the Dar Jamai Museum in Meknčs. So that everyone can benefit from the different experiences of International Museums Day, the Secretariat has put together a file on the 18th May 1995 activities, which is available to ICOM members on request.

Article pubblished on "ICOM News", vol.n°49, 1996 n.2
Updated: 15 September 2005