International Council of Museums (ICOM), is a unique network of more than 37,000 members and museum professionals who represent the global museum community. Having its headquarters in Paris, France, ICOM was inaugurated in 1946 by and for museum professionals. It has 115 National Committees and 30 International Committees dedicated to various museum specialties. To represent Pakistan, a National Committee of ICOM Pakistan was established in 1962, for the very first time.
The objective of International Museum Day (IMD) is to raise awareness of the importance of museums which is a medium of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among people. Organized on May 18th, each year (or around this date), the events and activities planned to celebrate IMD can last a day, a weekend or an entire week. IMD was celebrated for the first time 40 years ago in 1977.
ICOM is celebrating Museum Week scheduled for May 13th till May 19th, 2019, with a theme of ‘Museums as Cultural Hubs: The future of tradition.’ ICOM strongly believes that museums have the power to establish a dialogue between cultures, to build bridges for a peaceful world and to define a sustainable future. Museums worldwide are increasingly growing and developing into cultural hubs, they are also finding new ways to honor their collections, their histories and their legacies, creating traditions that will have new meaning for future generations and relevance for an increasingly diverse contemporary audience. This transformation, which will have a profound impact on museum theory and practice, also enables us to rethink the value of museums and to question the ethical boundaries that define the very nature of our work as museum professionals.
UNESCO has long recognized that museums are key players in promoting the values of heritage, diversity and intercultural dialogue on a global scale. In order to support the museum community in its efforts to promote their work digitally, UNESCO has decided to actively support #MuseumWeek — the world’s first cultural event on social media, which is bringing together cultural institutions from all over the world based on the idea of “7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags.” It features various themes such as exploration, photography and play, but also the role of women in culture, yesterday, today and tomorrow, to mark #WomenInCulture day, the high point of the week.
The role of women in Pakistani society is equally important which needs to be properly recognized as our women are equally and professionally engaged in all fields, may it be agriculture, medical, engineering, education, art, culture, Armed Forces, business entrepreneurs, politicians or even pilot of a fighter jet. Center for Culture and Development (C2D) is celebrating Museum Week in Pakistan, under the theme ‘Women in Culture’ in collaboration with ICOM-Pakistan with the support of UNESCO Paris. The program is mainly focusing on famous Pakistani women in the fields of literature, history, art, museums, culture, science and technology, as well as all those anonymous women whose lives structure our societies. A nationwide campaign, to celebrate the contributions of women in creative fields, comprising of banners and posters is being displayed at the forefront of Museums, Galleries, Art and Educational Institutions all across Pakistan, including, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Mardan, Lahore, Taxila and Karachi.
One of the ways in which any Pakistani institutions can get involved in the international activities of the museum week is by displaying the information, and awareness material in their respective institutions for public visibility. This material will become part of Pakistan’s contribution to the international campaign to make the creative signature of women more visible. Last year 35,000 institutions worldwide participated in the activities of museum week. The visitors may be encouraged to take a selfie with the exhibits in the museums, especially which highlight the role of women in creative culture. Institutions can hold different seminars, talks and art and photography competitions to highlight the accomplishments of women in their respective institutions and museums. TV and Radio programs may host women from all walks of life, particularly with museum background during International Museum Week, to recognize their efforts and achievements for shaping and evolving our culture as it is today. All the videos and photographs may be shared on the electronic, print and social media with the #WomenInCulture, #MuseumsAsCulturalHubs: TheFutureOfTradition and #MuseumWeek.
I would motivate all the readers to take their children, friends, family and students to museums so that they take interest in their roots, history as well as cultural heritage. They can learn more about other cultures and religions, through which they will understand the true meanings of tolerance, peace and harmony, which is direly needed today. Museums give us space and energy to reflect upon our past to shape up a humane future and to make this world a better place to live.
Let’s make Pakistan more visible through our professional strength and become part of international community. HH
The writer is a historian working with Center for Culture and Development, Islamabad also affiliated with National Committee of ICOM Pakistan.