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Spend a day at the museum in May

NationalMuseumDay.NTWhen: May 18

What: Modern museums like the Smithsonian Institute have grown to be so numerous and widely accessible that their existence is easily taken for granted. Today’s museums are quite different from their early counterparts, which were once strictly private showrooms or collections of the noble classes. On International Museum Day, celebrated May 18, take the time to support museums and celebrate their contributions to society as places to educate, preserve and inspire.

Background: Founded by the International Council of Museums in 1977, International Museum Day has since been observed on or around May 18 in over 100 countries. The event was established to give museum professionals an opportunity to meet with the public and show them how museums provide a social service, as well as alert them to the challenges many museums face. This year’s theme, “Museum and Memory,” will focus on how museums function as a collective and individual memory for cultural and natural heritage.

Story Pitch: Anything from art galleries to aquariums can be considered a museum, and it’s this diversity of content that should be the major focus in promoting them. Museums will want to home in on what makes their contribution to the community unique – whether that’s a rare collection, a niche subject or new acquisitions and exhibits. To celebrate the day, museums can encourage visitors to engage with the material through diverse workshops and reduced or waived admission fees. Museums also serve their communities as preservation centers and archives for scholars, making this an ideal time to reach out to schools and universities to encourage field trips, research, and information sharing. Local tourism bureaus and chambers of commerce would do well to recognize the jobs and tourism generated by museums by promoting them as not just family vacation destinations, but as enrichment centers for adults and people from all walks of life.

Story Hook: According to the American Association of Museums, despite an estimated 850 million visitors each year, only a small percentage of museums receive any federal funding. How do museums strike the delicate balance between serving the public and covering their costs? Keep the following in mind when making your pitch:

  • How has the approach to presenting museums and their material changed over time?
  • How do museums intersect with other forms of education and how do they benefit one another?
  • What are some of the more niche or off-beat museums throughout the country and world?
  • What are some current exhibitions travelling the world?

Tips: Provide contact information for a museum curator or volunteer, and perhaps a parent and child who make frequent museum trips.


American Association of Museums
(202) 289-1818

International Museum Day

Institute of Museum and Library Services
(202) 653- 4657

The Smithsonian Institute
(202) 633-1000

–Researched, compiled & written by Nicholas Testa
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