The world in which we live is undergoing exponential and dramatic change in every sector from economics to politics, science, technology and culture.
Centuries-old, Western-oriented, institutional frameworks in the field of heritage are being challenged by the emergence of new players, forms of competition, technological norms, and regionalism.
Even in the light of our burgeoning dependence on Artificial Intelligence, more than ever, we rely on culture to remind us that we are sentient beings, inter-connected via the massive organism called humanity. In fact, as our reliance on solutions that new technologies offer grows, we become more, and not less, dependent on human expertise, and cooperation.
These deliberations, added to three decades of travels, work, studies and research in various culture fields, inspired the founding of International Museum Workers Day IMWD, in 2015.
The annual advocacy event was initiated by American museologist, artist and filmmaker Homa Taj. IMWD began as an educational project to introduce the general public to the myriad professions relating to the creation, research, discovery and presentation of heritage. The project’s original title, a somewhat light-hearted name, was “Hug A Museum Worker (HAMuseumW).”
After spending the first two years explaining that ‘hugging’ museum workers was not to be taken literally, to the relief of many heritage workers, the event was re-named International Museum Workers Day (IMWD), in 2016.
Though IMWD launched as an initially social media project, our founding approach has always been to directly reach out to heritage professionals – rather than solely rely on social media’s serendipitous net.
Leading up to the third IMWD on June 29, 2017, under the leadership of our Executive Director Frank J Cunningham, we personally invited tens of thousands of art, design, heritage and museum workers as well as institutions and associations, in 192 countries. The invitations were sent via email to artists, scholars, art historians, scientists, archaeologists, anthropologists, curators, filmmakers, performance artists, designers & many others whose expertise, years of experience and dedication help create, discover, preserve, and disseminate tangible and non-tangible cultural heritage, in their respective countries. The mailing list excludes all social media, but includes LinkedIn.
Consequently, heritage professionals from 150+ countries engaged with IMWD2017 – including: Bhutan, Azerbaijan, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Moldova, Chad, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Mozambique, Ghana, Cameroon, Belaize, Oman, Madagascar, Jordan, Swaziland, Botswana, Congo, Jamaica, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, Benin, Vietnam, Papa New Guinea, Suriname, Brunei, Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, Malaysia, Burkina Faso, Togo, Dominican Republic, Mali, Rwanda, Chad, Senegal, South Africa, Yemen … as well as throughout the Americas and Europe.
The following year, IMWD2018 was marked in 21 languages, across 12 social media platforms, with increased engagement from 20 new countries (170 countries in total) – including: Timor-Leste, Angola, Marshall Islands, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Seychelles, Djibouti, Finland, Uganda, Albania, Maldives, Dominica, Democratic Republic Congo, Palau, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Pakistan, Malta, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, & Cyprus.
In some respects, IMWD may be viewed as the “Switzerland” of heritage projects considering that we draw our strength from inclusivity, and are multi-cultural & multi-lingual. As of today, we are not affiliated with any regional, national or international institutions or alliances. Nor are we aligned with any religious or political groups. We are impartial – which does not mean neutral and thus recognize the importance of strategic partnerships and the need to develop focused policies for specific regions. Above all, we are pragmatic since we believe in the necessities of public-private partnerships.
Have we mentioned that, like us, the Swiss love museums? A country 1/15 the size of France, they have more than 1,100 museums and 12 UNESCO Inscribed World Heritage Sites.
The next stage in IMWD’s development is to host a set of annual, regional symposia that gather global leaders & innovators in the fields of art, design, finance, technology, museums and heritage for creative convergence.
Stay tuned for more…