The worldwide community of museums will celebrate International Museum Day on and around May 18. Around the globe, participation in the event is growing. In 2018, more than 40,000 museums in 158 countries joined the celebration.
Markham Museum will be offering free admission on May 18, which also marks the last weekend for their very popular exhibit, Geared for Growing. The interactive display explores Markham’s rich agricultural history through the machines used in farming. As well, Parks Canada will present Learn to Camp and other nature-themed activities.
The International Council of Museums selects an annual theme that is at the heart of the concerns of society. This year, it will be on museums as cultural hubs: the future of tradition.
That focus is on the button at Markham Museum says Cathy Molloy, museum director.
“We welcome and partner with local craftspeople, businesses, schools, government and community groups to produce community relevant and engaging programs and exhibitions,” she said. “Museums are becoming a living part of their communities, examining the human experience in ways that not only make us cultural hubs, but often educational and social hubs. Museums have become places to celebrate our shared and individual relationships with our communities and with the planet.”
Staying relevant for an increasingly diverse contemporary audience is crucial for the future of museums.
“Museums will survive if they are relevant to their community, whether the community is a small village, a big city, a province or even a country,” said Molloy. “Museum attendance is largely driven by program, not the drop-in visitor. Museums that survive will develop program and exhibitions that engage the wider current communities.
“Many small museums have already started to close due to lack of funding and funding will only come if you are of value to as wide a demographic as possible. The goal of community museums is to develop an audience that comes back on a regular basis, sends their kids to camp there, holds family celebrations there, comes to see a family member’s contribution to an exhibit there or gets involved as a community partner.”
Museums are also finding new ways to honour their histories and their legacies.
“Markham Museum examines the things that we have in common, but also creates opportunities to discover what makes Markham unique,” said Molloy. “All of our programs are researched using archival material, current practices and introducing possible futures.
“For our environmental programs, we have worked closely with groups such as Toronto Region Conservation Authority. We offer geo-cache nature discovery tours of the site and have created several environmentally-themed, native-plant gardens. Our camps and programs reflect craft-arts, environmental stewardship and basic technologies.
“Our exhibitions are designed to support our program direction and are geared to our largest audience, families with young children. Many say that our exhibits seem more like a science centre, but this is the new museum.”
International Museum Day at Markham Museum (9350 Markham Road), runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 18. Admission is free.
Photo: Markham Museum, courtesy of the City of Markham.