Fittingly, this Wednesday is International Museum Day.
Since 1977 ICOM, the International Council of Museums, has hosted this special Museum Day as a way to raise awareness of Museum’s as an important cultural repository and important tool for international cooperation and development of peace amongst all people. Last year, over 158 countries took part with different events from sharing online content to hosting events in the Museum space.
This year, our team are busy planning many future events and coming off our busiest April ever, so for this reason, our contribution to this annual day is going to be through our sharing of awareness and online content.
The 2022 theme of International Museum Day is “The Power of Museums” with a focus on sustainability, digital accessibility and community building through education. I am proud to say that the Museum of Fire actively works across these three areas as we are acutely aware of the power of museums.
Museums can often be accused of not being sustainable, just think of all those temporary exhibits or associated ephemera passed out, so it is the role of Museum professionals to move Museums towards being more sustainable.
By the nature of Museums and especially archives, there is no way to escape paper! Very much aware of this, our team began a recycling program several years ago that ensures our general waste is not being filled with items that could be recycled. Taking this one step further, this year the Museum plans to stop issuing single-use plastics such as bottles of water to volunteers and staff. Our entire team will be provided with re-usable bottles that they can fill up at any of the Museum’s filtered water stations. This is just a small way we can reduce the amount of rubbish being produced daily (and plastic bottles were one major producer of rubbish highlighted by the team to address).
We have also introduced our Junior Caretaker’s Garden where children are invited to plant natives to help develop the local environment as more high-rise buildings go up around the Museum grounds. Each school holidays our team welcome children to take part in this great activity.
When it comes to digital accessibility, this is an area we take bigger strides towards every day! The introduction of this blog series has made the Museum’s collection and many topics more readily available to the public, while our social media is a great platform upon which we can share the Museum with a wider audience. This was especially important during the COVID closures and when we were forced to close due to the floods.
We have hosted numerous online events now, and whilst we have enjoyed creating these, our main aim is to get people through the door, visiting the Museum. For this reason, most of our online events will also have a physical element as we continue to develop and evolve our calendar of annual activities.
It is through the above that we work hard to ensure we are building a strong community both locally and across a wider area (e.g. Australia-wide and internationally). It is only through this dedicated community that the Museum can continue to grow and develop. Word-of-mouth is the greatest tool out there for increasing visitation and this is only achievable through the construction of a strong community.
While our Penrith community and indeed wider support base is incredibly powerful, so too is the international Museum community. The support that Museums, especially smaller Museums, provide to each other is fundamental to the survival of Museums as places where knowledge is freely shared and enjoyed.
At the same time, it is during times of crisis that the community can come together to support one another. When we went through the recent floods, we were pleased to receive great support from our local community and have seen the Museum community ban together to help those directly in the path of the floods as, after all, no Museum professional can imagine what it would be like to suffer damage to their museum or collection, let alone lose everything.
Sadly, earlier this month I saw the news that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had seen the loss of at least one Museum. The Hryhoriy Skovoroda Literary Memorial Museum in Skovorodynivka, Kharkiv, was completely destroyed after shelling led to a fire on 6 May 2022.
The Museum, which was founded 50 years ago this year, was dedicated to the life and works of Ukrainian Cossack philosopher and poet Hryhoriy Skovoroda who lived during the eighteenth century, (3 December 1722 – 9 November, 1794). Earlier in the war, the valuable items are said to have been removed, however, the entire building and what was left inside was destroyed. One custodian was also injured.
I can’t imagine ever having to witness such an atrocity and I hope that we never do, this makes us all very thankful for how lucky we are in Australia. The Museum team are an incredible group of dedicated staff and volunteers who go above and beyond every day to ensure the Museum experience is even better each day for our visitors. Across April, this was proven time and time again as we ably managed both on-site and off-site events whilst experiencing sudden staff shortages due to COVID-19, just like all other Australian businesses.
Some highlights included our attendance at the Sydney Royal Easter Show as well as the Hawkesbury Show (pictured below).
To end this tribute to Museums, I leave you with this photograph of the Museum, taken back in the mid-1980s prior to the Museum assuming the space. When we shared this last year, it led to many questions about where exactly it showed in the Museum so for 2022 we have put together the image below to illustrate just how much has changed in the last thirty years!
To learn more about this photograph and the history of the Museum visit this blog:
- Belinda McMartin, Museum of Fire CEO