International Museum Day

US #3910a from the Modern American Architecture sheet.

On May 18, 1977, the first International Museum Day was celebrated around the world.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) founded International Museum Day in 1946.  The organization was created to promote the educational role of museums and the international circulation of cultural items.

US #1064 honors the oldest art museum and school in the nation.

At a 1951 meeting of ICOM, members discussed the theme “Museums and Education.”  These talks would go on to inspire the creation of Museum Day in 1977.  At an ICOM General Assembly in 1977, the members agreed to create a yearly event “with the aim of further unifying the creative aspirations and efforts of museums and drawing the attention of the world public to their activity.”

Additionally, ICOM declared that International Museum Day would spread the message that “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.”

Over the years, International Museum Day gained popularity, being celebrated at an increasing number of museums.  In 1992, International Museum Day incorporated a theme for the first time – “Museums and the Environment.”  Every year since has also included a theme, such as “Peace and Harmony,” “Bridging Cultures,” “Tourism,” “Cultural Landscapes,” and “Collecting Today for Tomorrow.”

US #2779-82 were issued for the opening of the National Postal Museum in 1993.

In recent years, many museums have participated in “European Night of Museums.”  Held on May 18, it’s a continent-wide event in which many museums host special activities until 1 a.m.

Item #54517 – Commemorative cover marking the opening of the National First Day Cover Museum.

Today, International Museum Day is celebrated in over 30,000 museums in 129 countries around the world.  Celebrations often include fun, free activities that relate to that year’s theme.  Museums also use the day to inform the public of the issues they face and show the important role museums play in our society.  The theme for this year’s celebration is “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition.”

See more stamps, covers, and postal items honoring museums below:

US #5251 honors the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016.
US #UX168 honors the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
US #1387-90 were issued for the 100th anniversary of the Museum of Natural History.
US #943 – Today, the Smithsonian consists of 20 museums and a zoo.

Click here to visit the International Museum Day website.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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