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The silent voice of Jamaica and others on International Museum Day

Joan J FRANCIS

Monday, May 19, 2014    

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THE International Council of Museums (ICOM) issued a press release from Paris on October 15, 2013 under the caption 'Launch of International Museum Day 2014 — Museum collections make connections'. In commenting on its choice of theme, ICOM indicated that "the worldwide community of museums will celebrate International Museum Day around 18 May 2014. This year, the theme of the International Museum Day (IMD) will be 'Museum collections make connections'. This theme is a reminder that museums are living institutions that help creating bonds between visitors, generations and cultures around the world". The central focus of IMD is to enhance community consciousness about the responsibility of museums in the development of society.

Jamaica, like many countries in the Caribbean, has remained silent on the activities of IMD largely because public and private museums are segregated. This has contributed to a challenge to develop a museum culture with a high impact factor. Happily, all is not lost, as works such as Caribbean Heritage edited by Basil A Reid (University of the West Indies Press, 2012) already provide a blueprint as to what needs to be done to bring the Caribbean up to speed in being active participants in international events such as IMD. Another viable route in getting us there is outlined in the Jamaica Observer article on Monday, April 28, 2014 'Caricom, French Republic forge closer cooperation', which highlighted that France — the seat of ICOM — is desirous of establishing closer ties with the Caribbean community. This would provide an opportunity for ICOM to expand its visibility in the region, as in Jamaica's case very few museums are members of ICOM. As the saying goes: "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain." In my opinion, this would be an important area in which French assistance would be welcome. Where there is a will there is a way.

The following are some of the significant milestones that have occurred over the years on International Museum Day:

1977: Resolution adopted during the General Assembly of ICOM in Moscow to create a special event marking the beginning of IMD

1992: ICOM suggested a theme for the first time

2007: Museums in approximately 70 countries participated under the theme 'We are all responsible for universal heritage'

2008: 20,000 museums in 90 countries participated in IMD; the first virtual museum event took place with the contribution of Tech Museum of Innovation (San

Francisco, USA)

2011: It was estimated that about

30, 000 museums in 110 countries participated under the theme 'Museum and memory. Objects tell our story'.

2012: About 32,000 museums in 129 countries on all continents participated in IMD 2012 the 35th anniversary of IMD

2013: 35,000 museums from 143 countries participated under the theme 'Museums (memory + creativity =

social change)

Joan J Francis is the museum and heritage preservation officer at the University of Technology, Jamaica. Comments: jjfrancis@utech.edu.jm

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