Wednesday, May 12, 2010

International Museum Day

Since 1977, International Museum Day has been celebrated around May 18.  The purpose of the event is to provide a forum for museum professionals to meet with the public and discuss the challenges faced by museums (most notably, funding).  Many local museums celebrate by offering free admission (or parking) or special programs on that day.  

This year's theme is "Museums for Social Harmony."  According to a press release from the International Council of Museums:
"Museums in the 21st Century are at the cross roads of major transformations in the global economy and environment. They are in a position to address the urgent need for safeguarding cultural diversity and bio-diversity as the common heritage of humanity. The preferred futures across the world are for Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability. Museums have a role to play as mediators in these transformations in promoting social harmony."
Why not make time during your day to include museum resources from diverse resources?  I think a great place to start is Eternal Egypt, the online exhibit sponsored by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  Eternal Egypt is an interactive exploration (using the latest in technology) of more than 5,000 years of Egyptian culture.  Be warned: This site is addicting!  I have a hard time making each visit brief.  Frankly, I suggest you bookmark the site for the students to explore in their free time.  A quick click on the compass icon on the right hand side of the page takes you on a guided tour of the exhibit.  The menu on the left offers interesting portals to the information as well.  If you're a middle school teacher (or upper elementary, for that matter), you'll surely want to include this resource in your lessons!  In fact, I recommended this page to an art teacher friend who has used it when teaching her unit on Egyptian art.  

If you're looking for a one-stop-shop of cultural diversity resources, there is only one place to start: The Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History.  On their Department of Anthropology's page (, there is a list of online exhibits on a wide range of cultural diversity topics.  I think this is another page to bookmark for future reference.

If you are working on a unit about a specific culture, I recommend using a search engine (yes, I prefer Google) to look for a museum in that country with online exhibits.

And please be sure to explore the museums in your neighborhood.  If you can't take a field trip, you can always take your class for a virtual visit.  I always recommend including a list of local resources, libraries and museums in particular, to post on your teacher Web page, the school library's resources page, and as a flyer that goes home to parents either at orientation (in the welcome to our class packets) or in the final report card envelope (summer's a great time to visit the museums).

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