Museums have changed a lot over the years. Not just in my lifetime, but across many years. The focus usually remains the same: sharing knowledge. To share a moment of cultural exchange. To give us insight into another life, whether years ago or miles away. That’s an important feature to celebrate and hold on to. International Museum Day (May 18) was introduced 40 years ago to celebrate this exact same reason.
In 2021, the theme is “The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine.” I love this theme because we are way overdue for a “reimagining” of how we collect and share cultural history. (I’m looking at you, British Museum.) It would be easy to think this is simply about new tech and cool multimedia experiences. However, it should be a year for museums to recover from the bad experiences in their own personal history and reimagine a more ethical and inclusive future. The good news is we are changing. We are recognizing the errors of the past and many are trying to rectify this. That would have been a good “re” word for the theme. In the meantime, we can continue to celebrate museums and still encourage ethical behavior when sharing our cultural history. Let’s Make/Play/Watch/Read for International Museum Day!
Make: DIY Dig Site for International Museum Day
Museums are amazing places, filled with so many interesting things! However, not everyone has easy access to a museum. There are many different ways to visit a museum: in-person, virtual tours, or even simply reading a book. When all else fails, we can also create our own museums to celebrate our collection of knowledge. This next activity is aimed at the younger kids who cannot visit a museum today but still want to capture the essence of history… Okay, fine. It’s for us big kids too.
For your DIY dinosaur dig site, you will need the following:
- About four (4) cups of flour
- About ½ cup of vegetable or canola oil
- About 1 teaspoon of powdered coloring (not essential)
- Small dinosaur toys or other “artifacts” to bury
- A sealable container
Method to the madness:
- Mix the flour and oil together in the container.
- Make sure you mix it really well until it creates a soft, silky, crumbly sand.
- Bury some toy dinosaurs or other artifacts.
- Give this to your kid with a paintbrush and spoon.
- Now sit back and enjoy five minutes of peace and quiet while your kid does the archaeology thing for their own personal museum.
Play: Timeline/Cardline (Asmodee)
Timeline is somewhat of an “evergreen”’ game. It’s been around for a few years, had a few variations, and is still good enough to pull from the shelf regularly. It’s not quite “classic” material, but it is definitely a popular choice for short quick games. Best of all, it’s a game you can carry in a bag and use for inspiration at the museum—which is why it is perfect to Play on International Museum Day.
GeekMom Sophie has shared a great review here, and GeekMom Jenny has taken it a step further to show us how it fits with her personal history interests. In short, the game is played in rounds approximately 15-minutes long for 2-8 players and aimed at 8-years and older. It’s a simple card elimination game, where players place their cards on the shared timeline. Each card features historical events or items on each side but the date is only shown on one side. For each turn, you must place a card on the timeline. If the card and its date are placed correctly, then your card stays on the table. If not, the cards are discarded and you draw another card. The game increases in difficulty as the gaps in the timeline fill up. The winner is the first person to be the only player in that round to play all of their cards.
There are about seven different Timeline games available, depending on your favorite view of history. Personally, I love Timeline: Inventions and could use this game to inspire a visit to our local Powerhouse Museum. The place is filled with exhibits on innovation, creation, and technical curiosity. Alternatively, I could easily grab Cardline: Dinosaurs, with the same game style as Timeline but with a slightly changed name… and dinosaurs. This variation teams perfectly with a visit to, say, the Australian Museum with its newly renovated dinosaur displays.
For an extra level of game mastery, create your own version of Timeline with photos from your local museum. Any genre or subject can be used, built with your own photos of exhibits and historical facts. The goal is to be inspired to play the game and visit your museum. That’s what keeps International Museum Day alive.
Watch: Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers
Grab your cheese and head to the museum! We need to save Wallace and Gromit! Fans of stop-animation know what I’m talking about! Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers is the second short film made by Aardman Animations and, in my personal opinion, one of the best. While there are many movies featuring museums or set in museums, The Wrong Trousers gives us one of the most outrageous reasons to visit a museum.
The Wrong Trousers starts with Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) and his dog Gromit, who have recently invented the new “Techno Trousers.” In need of money, Wallace and Gromit rent out the spare bedroom to Feathers McGraw, a penguin disguised as a chicken. Things are the usual level of weird until Gromit discovers Feathers’ dastardly plan: to steal a rare diamond from the museum using Wallace and his Techno Trousers.
It is a short film, running at 29-minutes, but it packs a lot into these trousers! This is a short-and-sweet story, perfect for a few laughs from everyone in the family. The scenes in the museum are my favorite; watching this badly disguised penguin staking out the museum, returning later with an unwitting Wallace and the techno trousers. It’s comedy gold. I’m not sure how many museums around the world would allow it but the kids and I have often “stomped” through areas, in the spirit of Wallace. Maybe not on International Museum Day? But definitely on return visits during the year.
Read: The Night at the Museum and Another Night at the Museum by Milan Trenc
Almost every kid I know (including this big kid) has always wondered what it is like in the museum at night. Once all the people have left, the lights turned off, and the doors are closed… what happens?
I absolutely love these two books for building on our imaginations and creating a sense of adventure and learning! The Night at the Museum and its follow-up, Another Night at the Museum, have both been made into a trilogy of movies but let’s face it: the Books Are Better. Watch W&G: TWT, but read The Night at the Museum. It’s sweet and shares some amazing facts to inspire another visit to the museum.
In the original book, Larry is a night guard at New York’s Museum of Natural History. He thinks it is going to be an easy job and accidentally falls asleep. When he wakes, he is horrified to learn the entire dinosaur skeleton collection has disappeared! The softly illustrated book takes us on an adventure through the Museum, Central Park, and next door to the Planetarium, while Larry desperately tries to return the dinosaurs to their exhibit. The descriptive story partners so well with the detailed artwork. There is a sequel, Another Night at the Museum, with a focus on the Ocean Room and the underwater exhibit. Both books take you on a journey that I hope will naturally lead you to the museum for your own adventures.
Museums all around the world are busy renovating and rejuvenating their exhibits to share with the public. There will always be a demand for dinosaurs and Greek mythology (at least from my family), but it is equally important for our new renovations to include the necessary update in our human history. We need more history from First Nations. We need a better understanding of the mistakes made in our past. We need exhibits without the instant “dominant aggressor” filter applied to every description. International Museum Day isn’t simply another day on the geek calendar. This is our day to celebrate museums and encourage better behavior from them. And if you can’t do it in person, do it with your own Make/Play/Watch/Read and send a message on social media.