May 18th is International Museum Day and there’s a lot to celebrate. The objective of International Museum Day (IMD) is to raise awareness about the fact that museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples. Museums help us to understand so much about the world around us and our place in it. For the past number of years, Midlands Science has had a partnership with the National Museum of Ireland for our outreach activities during Science Week and we want to wish our friends in the National Museum of Ireland a particularly happy day today on International Museum Day!!
The word museum comes from Latin and was originally from the Ancient Greek, Mouseion, which means a place or temple dedicated to the muses, the divinities of the arts in Greek mythology. The purpose of modern museums is to collect, preserve, interpret, and display objects of artistic, cultural, or scientific significance for the study and education of the public. Museums have changed over time. Museums of natural history in the late 19th century exemplified the scientific desire for classification and for interpretations of the world, for example.
One of the oldest museums known is Ennigaldi-Nanna’s museum, built by Princess Ennigaldi in modern Iraq at the end of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The site dates from c. 530 BCE, and contained artifacts from earlier Mesopotamian civilizations. Notably, a clay drum label—written in three languages—was found at the site, referencing the history and discovery of a museum item. Early museums began as the private collections of wealthy individuals, families or institutions of art and rare or curious natural objects and artifacts. These were often displayed in so-called “wonder rooms” or cabinets of curiosities. These contemporary museums first emerged in western Europe, then spread into other parts of the world. Museums are currently challenged like many institutions to address issues of sustainability, climate change and issues of deconolisation. In this way, the challenges faced by museums reflect the changes and challenges of wider society.
Science has a key role in museums as it facilitates research, conservation processes, further understanding and a variety of museum techniques which are vital to the research and education processes they provide. Museums are unique places for people to engage with history, ecology, science and a variety of topics and to understand how interconnected many topics are. Many would argue that museums have a vital role in building empathy and understanding. ELIF M. GOKCIGDEM’s book “Fostering Empathy through museums” showed how museums can hold a mirror to society and promote awe and wonder. The line between the arts and science is not to be seen when we experience a truly amazing museum, we are simply experiencing awe, wonder and curiosity.
We are proud to continue to work on outreach with the National Museum of Ireland and would encourage you all to visit some of the amazing museums Ireland has to offer. you’ll learn a lot about everything from astronomy to zoology and in many cases you’ll find a local link back to where you come from. Details on programmes from the National Museum of Ireland can be found on www.museum.ie and we’d also recommend Cats of the Louvre by Taiyo Matsumoto. It’s a surreal tale of the secret world of the cats of the Louvre, told by Eisner Award winner Taiyo Matsumoto. After-all who hasn’t dreamt about a night at the museum like Ben Stiller!!