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International Museum Day 2021, 18 May

The year 2020 has been like no other. The Covid-19 crisis has swept the whole world abruptly, affecting every aspect of our lives, from the interactions with our loved ones, to the way we perceive our homes and cities, to our work and its organisation. Some already pressing issues have been exacerbated, questioning the very structure of our societies: the call for equality is stronger than ever.

Museums are no exception to these changes, and the cultural sector is among the most affected: surveys conducted by ICOM and other international organisations present a dire situation for museums and their professionals, with serious economic, social and psychological repercussions in the short and long term alike.

But this crisis also served as a catalyst for crucial innovations that were already underway, notably an increased focus on digitisation and the creation of new forms of cultural experience and dissemination.  This is a pivotal moment for our society, and we call museums to embrace it and lead the change. The time is now to rethink our relationship with the communities we serve, to experiment with new and hybrid models of cultural fruition and to strongly reaffirm the essential value of museums for the construction of a just and sustainable future. We must advocate for the creative potential of culture as a driver for recovery and innovation in the post-Covid era.

With the theme The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine, International Museum Day 2021 invites museums, their professionals and communities to create, imagine and share new practices of (co-)creation of value, new business models for cultural institutions and innovative solutions for the social, economic and environmental challenges of the present.

As representatives of the global museum community, the vision of ICOM is a world where the importance of natural and cultural heritage is universally valued. Today, more than ever, museums face unique challenges related to social, economic, and ecological issues. While serving as witnesses of the past and guardians of humanity’s treasures for future generations, museums play a key role in development through education and democratisation.

In this context, ICOM has established a Working Group on Sustainability. The Working Group’s mission is to help ICOM consider how to mainstream Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement across its range of activities, including International Museum Day, and to support its members to contribute constructively in upholding the Sustainable Development Goals.

As a result, every year, International Museum Day will focus on a set of SDGs.  In 2021, we will focus on:

SDG 4: Quality Education – By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university (Target 4.3)

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth – Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors (Target 8.2)

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities – Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage (Target 11.4).  By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities (Target 11.7)

SDG 13: Climate Action – Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalised communities (Target 13 B)

Over the coming weeks and months, we will share more information about how UK museums can get involved with International Museum Day 2021.  In the meantime, visit the ICOM UK IMD website for more information.