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2006 "Museums and young people "

Suggested Activities for International Museum Day, 18 May 2006

The Theme: "Museums and young people "

Young people constitute new generations of museum professionals and audiences for a new generation of museums.

From within, young professionals are shaping museum practices and the way museums communicate the heritage of which they are repositories, adding to collections' relevance within ever-changing cultural and socio-political environments.

From without, young audiences approach the museum community with changing expectations seeking experiences, information or “answers” specific to their age group and to the challenges they face in today’s society. These interactions and tensions have contributed to museums being today more sensitive to social responsibility, ethical practices, community, and to fostering intercultural dialogue and tolerance.

This year’s theme for International Museum Day “Museums and Young People” should allow the museum community to reflect on, address and  celebrate the role that young people play in fulfilling their mission, and to sensitize the public to  their contribution towards a more solidarious and tolerant society.

Last year, nearly fifty countries participated in International Museum Day. We hope that the response this year will set a record for ICOM and encourage an even wider participation in the future.


The Secretariat submits examples of activities that museums may find useful when planning events for this day.

1. Young Children

Create-your-own Art gallery
A papier māche Venus de Milo! Or a neon coloured version of Van Gogh's The Starry Night! On International Museum Day, museums could provide children with the opportunity to replicate their favourite paintings, statue or monument. By submitting their copy-cat masterpieces, children will have the opportunity to showcase their talents in a Create-your-own Art gallery. Museums may also want to create a contest, whereby children will be awarded prizes for their work. For example, the contest could be divided into categories such as most creative or most realistic, etc. Don't forget: all efforts should be rewarded!

Treasure Hunt
Skill testing questions and solving mysteries are a fun way for kids to learn. These principles can be applied to museums by way of a scavenger hunt. On International Museum Day, children, along with their parents or teachers, could take part in a fun learning activity, as they wander the halls of their local museum, solving mysteries and finding clues. Museums should develop a series of questions, hints and clues to test the children’s knowledge and problem solving abilities. Scavenger hunts should vary in difficulty according to age groups. For example, pictorial clues may be more appropriate for younger children, whereas word problems and more detailed clues may be suited to older children.
Suggested link:

Bring Your Own Collection
Children are notorious for collecting. Whether it is rocks, sea shells, stickers, bugs, pins, stamps, dolls, playing cards, action figures – you get the idea – nearly every child has their own unique collection. On International Museum Day, invite children to share their personal collection with others by putting it on display at the museum and by providing the corresponding information. This activity will be both interesting and fun for children as it will provide the opportunity to showcase collection items, and present the opportunity to interact with other youngsters, museum staff and museum visitors.  .

2. Adolescents

Job Junction
On International Museum Day, museums could create a Job Junction which highlights volunteer opportunities at the museum. This could be targeted at teenagers who are looking for first-time experience in the museum sector.  Museum staff may also want to speak with young people about potential careers within the museum sector and discuss their experiences in the museum profession.

Sleep-over at the Museum
Give young adults the opportunity to spend the night with the dinosaurs or great works of art! On International Museum Day, try something different with an over night adventure in the museum! Slumber parties at the museum are a fun way for young adults to make new friends, meet museum professionals and learn a thing or two in the process. The overnight experience could include guided tours of the museum (by flashlight), movie watching and fun learning seminars (using glow-in-the-dark paint, perhaps?).

Suggested link:

3. Young Volunteers

Appreciation Night
Volunteers are an important part of any institution and museums are no exception. International Museum Day is a great occasion to thank young volunteers and young Friends of Museums  who have generously contributed their time and effort to the growth and development of museums.

4. Museums and Young artists

Artist Expos
Museums are the platform for all types of art. On International Museum Day why not give young artist a chance to showcase their work? On or around May 18, museums may consider having their walls covered with the work of young up-and-coming artists. This presents the opportunity for museums to connect with local art-minded youth and vice versa. Additionally, museum patrons may be invited to speak with the young-artists and vote on their favorite submission.

5. Young at Heart

Nostalgia Night
For many adults, going to museums is nostalgic experience. Ask almost anyone and they'll gladly talk about their favourite childhood memory involving a trip to the museum. Or perhaps their favourite exhibit when they were young? It could be the dinosaur exhibit, the prehistoric cave artwork or the life sized whale in their local Museum of Natural History. On International Museum Day, museums may choose to open their doors to not only young, but the young at heart.
- Finding your “inner child”: Museums typically oriented towards children, could encourage adults to visit their exhibits or participate in fun, hands-on activities in effort to bring out their “inner child” for a few hours.
- Theme nights: Museums may want to create retro exhibits that would provide a nostalgic experience for older audiences. Retro nights could focus on pop culture or music and movies from past decades (e.g. 50’s, 60’s, 70’s).

6. Non-museum goers (young people who do not go to museums)

Community Outreach Programs
While museums are open to the public, they are not always accessible to everyone, or might fail to attract their young constituency. Outreach programs are a great way to reach non-museum goers by taking the museum to them. Museums professionals could host engaging and interactive seminars for local youth in either classrooms or community halls. These seminars could include parts of the museum’s collection, games and hands-on activities. This is a unique way for museums to reach out and engage members of the community who may be missing out.
Suggested link:

Marketing to the young
Engage students at a local business administration school or museum studies program to develop a marketing plan/strategy to attract to their even-aged to the museum.

7. Meet the Professionals

Social Events
Brining together young professionals and long-time museum workers is a great way to introduce future museum professionals to the industry. Snack and refreshments  events and soirees are a great way to evoke conversation between young professionals and their older, more experienced counterparts.

Keeping with this year’s theme of “Museums and Young People”, now might be the time to incorporate mentorship programs in as many museums as possible. Mentoring is an invaluable experience for both young professionals and their mentor. Mentoring is said to be “a key career resource for developing managerial talent and also a tool for educating new employees and socializing them into the values and culture of the workplace”*. On International Museum Day, museums are encouraged to launch mentorship programs that will link museum staff with young professionals from the community.

Curating Exhibits
Many young museum professionals aspire to become, one day, curators of a museum. On International Museum Day, museums may decide to invite young professionals to co-curate an exhibit with the museum’s curator. This experience will educate young professionals as to what a curator’s job entails and to have a glimpse at the museum collection, and, in turn, it will provide curators with the opportunity to talk about their experiences and offer advice and guidance to the participants.

Good luck with your event and don’t forget to send ICOM pictures, newsletter stories, newspaper clippings and details about how your National Committee, country, and museums celebrated International Museum Day on or around May 18, 2006.


Updated: 14 February 2006