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What is International Museum Day?

Updated on February 25, 2014

International Museum Day 2013

When is the last time you went to a museum? May 18th is International Museum Day, a celebration designed to raise awareness of museums. Perhaps it is time to plan your next visit! Even if you live in a small town and don't have access to major museums that day, there are ways you can join in the celebration.

Each year, IMD has a theme. In the past, these themes have featured museum issues ranging from the environment to bridging cultures to relating to young people. As the world changes, museums are having to redefine their role in society. International Museum Day encourages dialogue between museum professionals and the public.

Featured Image: Museu de Arte de São Paulo by Rodrigo Soldon via Flickr

Reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

The theme for International Museum Day 2014 is:

“Museum collections make connections”

Smithsonian Institution Building
Smithsonian Institution Building

History of International Museum Day

International Museum Day (IMD) has been celebrated on or around May 18th every year since 1977. It was created to raise public awareness of museums and the issues they face. It is organized by the International Council of Museums, an organization dedicated to representing museums and museum professionals around the world.

Every year, the Advisory Committee of the International Council of Museums decides on a theme for IMD. The theme for 2012 was "Museums in a Changing World. New challenges, New inspirations." What role should museums play in modern society and how should they adapt to changing political and cultural needs? There are big questions on the horizons for museums as countries grow increasingly demanding that cultural property be returned to the soil on which it was created. The theme for IMD 2013 was "Museums (memory + creativity) = social change".

In 2014, the theme is “Museum collections make connections.” There is a lot of potential in that topic! How will you celebrate it?

Featured Image: Smithsonian Institution Building (Public Domain Image)

Modern Museum Architecture

Celebrate International Museum Day by taking a look at the interesting architecture of modern museums. Increasingly, the architecture is as much of a draw as the actual contents of a museum. This photo guide examines 31 different museum buildings through images of the architecture.

New Museums: Contemporary Museum Architecture Around the World (Universe Architecture Series)
New Museums: Contemporary Museum Architecture Around the World (Universe Architecture Series)

The last fifteen years have brought a dramatic change. This book is beautiful and will give you a new perspective on the role of a museum to its city!


When is the last time you visited a museum?

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Books on Museums

From museum guides to information about the changing roles of museums in the 21st century, there are tons of great books written about museums. Why not read something new in celebration of International Museum Day?

Ideas for Celebrating International Museum Day

Are you interested in celebrating International Museum Day? Here are a few ideas for how to celebrate, whether or not you live near a great museum!

  • Visit a new museum. Is there a museum that you keep meaning to visit?
  • Make a donation to your favorite museum. Many museums are facing difficulties with funding due to the economic climate of the last few years. Great museums are being forced to cut back or even close their doors. Any donation, no matter how small, will be appreciated.
  • Read a book or travel guide about a museum you've always wanted to visit. Is there a museum on your bucket list that you won't be able to visit soon? Why not look for a great guide? There are many full-color books that can transport you to these far-away museums.
  • Buy a print of your favorite painting. I used to love visiting the de Young Museum in San Francisco. When I moved away from the area, I took the museum with me by purchasing a print of my favorite painting, featured below:

Rainy Season in the Tropics, 1866

Frederic Edwin Church - Giclee Print

Buy From

Looking for More Information on International Museum Day?

Get your information straight from the source, with these pages from The International Council of Museums. You can find up to date information, as well as a press kit on International Museum Day 2012.

Unique Museums

Even if you don't live near a major art museum, there are probably some small, interesting museums in your area! Company museums often tell an interesting story about how your favorite products are made and how the company has affected the area's development. Many of these tours include fun freebies as well!

Watch It Made in the U.S.A.: A Visitor's Guide to the Best Factory Tours and Company Museums
Watch It Made in the U.S.A.: A Visitor's Guide to the Best Factory Tours and Company Museums

This book includes color pictures, specific details about the tours, and even information about why some states don't have many factory tours and company museums. You should double check the specifics with the company website since the book was published a few years ago, but the suggestions are fun and interesting ways to see a different type of museum.


Do you go to your local museums regularly? Is there somewhere you have been meaning to explore? Or do you have a recommendation on a fantastic exhibit? Share your thoughts and maybe you will inspire someone to participate in International Museum Day 2013!

What's your favorite museum?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love all museums, big or small. It's time constraints that stop me.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 

      6 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      I love the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art in Albuquerque. Our Natural History Museum has a huge Dynamax screen for viewing their awesome films on undersea adventures, mountain climbing and more. Visits are always stimulating and enjoyable.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I recently visited the Museum of London which I have meaning to do for as long as I knew it existed. My favourite museums are the Victoria & Albert museum and the British Museum, and I've visited them both several times. I am very lucky, because I live within walking distance of the V&A. This is a great lens for a great holiday. *Blessed*

    • KateHonebrink profile image


      6 years ago

      The Louvre Museum has to be my all-time favorite museum. I plan to return there someday - soon, I hope! Congrats on being featured on the May Silly Celebrations monsterboard!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      When I was a child my dad took me to the Museum of Science and Industry (in Chicago) almost every weekend. Those were the best times we had.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 

      6 years ago from US/TN

      I really enjoy museums but I haven't made it a priority to regularly visit them. One of the museums in Nashville was free on International Museum Day and I really wanted to go but it was a bad week for me. Maybe I can catch it next year!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I don't go to museums regularly but I appreciate the place and the different works of art inside it.

    • jolou profile image


      6 years ago

      I went to the Metropolitan museum when I visited New York quite a few years ago, and have been to the Smithsonian. They were outstanding. I'm in a small city but we have a good museum here. They had a Titanic exhibit a few years ago that was very good.


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