International Museum

International Museum Day!

IMD 2017 banner

International Museum Day (IMD) is celebrated on 18 May every year. The objective of this day is to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” Participation in IMD is growing among museums all over the world. In 2015, more than 35,000 museums participated in the event in some 145 countries.

This year the Whanganui Regional Museum is closed for seismic strengthening and cannot offer an IMD programme. We do urge you, however, to explore the theme for IMD and give some thought to how museums might deliver responsible messages through their exhibitions, education and public programmes and their publications.

The theme for 2017 is:

Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums

We define ourselves through important and fundamental historic events. Contested histories, or historical interpretations of human conflict and war, are not isolated traumatic events. These histories, which 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. This day will therefore provide an opportunity to show how museums think about and depict traumatic memories to encourage visitors to think beyond their own individual experiences.

By focusing on the role of museums as hubs for promoting peaceful relationships between people, this theme highlights how the acceptance of a contested history is the first step in envisioning a shared future under the banner of reconciliation.

Acknowledgement and thanks to International Council of Museums for information, text and media support.

Alternative Museums

Museums aren’t always filled to the brim with old furniture, important artworks, and certificates signed by various members of the Royal Family.  There are hundreds of thousands of Museums that have a very strict collecting criteria, and sometimes they focus on things we wouldn’t necessarily expect.

For example, there is a Chainsaw Museum in Woodville, a Paua Museum in Canterbury (previously an independent house, now in the Canterbury Museum), and a Clock Museum in Whangarei.

And of course, internationally there even more delights to be found: the International Banana Museum can be found in California, a Dog Collar Museum in Leeds, and a Ramen Noodle Museum in Japan.  Or if you happen to be strolling around New York be sure the check out some of the Museum’s mentioned in this article.

And if you’re more of an armchair traveler, Cowgirls, Cockroaches & Celebrity Lingerie: The World’s Most Unusual Museums is a great read which outlines many of the world’s oddest collections.  Read more about it here.

To selfie, or not to selfie

Love them or hate them, selfie sticks are very popular for those who don’t have arms long enough to take a good self portrait with their phone/digital camera.  Rather than take a tripod with you and set up the timer on your camera, the small collapsible sticks are easier to use and transport.  But, they pose a certain danger to Museums and the artworks and artifacts on display.

Several museums around the world have introduced a ban on selfie sticks.  The ban is not a social commentary on the equally loved and loathed sticks that seem to divide popular opinion, but rather a safety mechanism for the collections.  There have been unfortunate cases in the past where visitors with tripods have swung around the photography tool and accidentally ripped artworks or knocked over objects, and the selfie stick is seen by some institutions to offer the same threat and has been banned to try and prevent damage before it happens.

There have been a few notable instances of other damage to museums collection items.  In 2010 a woman accidentally fell into Pablo Picasso’s The Actor; and in 2006 a man tying his shoelaces slipped and smashed three Qing dynasty vases.

In New Zealand, Te Papa has bravely declared they don’t have a problem with the sticks and their visitors are welcome to use them in the spaces where photography is permitted.  As for us, we have a blanket policy of no photography within the galleries, and that includes the sticks.

You fixed it with what?!?

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo has recently come under fire for fixing an artifact with epoxy glue.  Oops!

The mask of King Tutankhamun was being cleaned when the iconic beard came off, and was rumoured to be hastily reattached with the inappropriate adhesive.  And poorly reattached too, with reports the remnants of the glue were visible to viewers of the object.

The Museum sector has guidelines for the correct materials and methods to be used in the conservation, preservation, and repair of historic items, and we do our best to stick to these rules as much as possible.  Acid-free, pH neutral, non-corrosive, and ideally reversible if need be.

For more information on caring for, and fixing, artifacts, check out the Canadian Conservation Institute here.  Or, visit your local museum or archive center for a chat with a friendly conservator or collection manager.  We are always willing to help!