by Adline Abdul Ghani
Museums play a crucial role in their local communities, particularly in their cultural landscape and their natural environment.
And to celebrate the importance of museums, each year a special event is organised in museums throughout the world – International Museum Day.
According to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the objective of International Museum Day is to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.”
The event is held on and around 18 May each year, with each year seeing a larger global participation than before. In 2017, for example, International Museum Day garnered record-breaking participation, with more than 36,000 museums hosting events in some 157 countries and territories.
This year’s theme, ‘Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics,’ is truly apt, as it is impossible to understand the role of museums without taking into account all the connections they make. Thanks to technology, museums can now reach way beyond their core audience and find new publics when approaching their collections in a different way: it can be the digitalisation of their collections, adding multimedia elements to the exhibition or something as simple as a hashtag that allows visitors to share their experience in social media. However, not all these new connections are due to technology. As museums strive to maintain their relevance in society, they shift their attention to the local community and the diverse groups that make it up.
This year, as in the years prior, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia organised an array of activities specially for International Museum Day. However, the IAMM decided to organise the event on 18 July 2018, as May was reserved for observing the month of Ramadan. IAMM certainly made a real connection with hundreds of visitors that day, which included over 600 students from schools around the Klang Valley.
In order to cater to its young visitors, the IAMM staff set up booths, which offered various hands-on activities. This included a batik-making booth, where visitors had the chance to try their hand at hand-drawn batik, as well as add their personal designs to a large batik piece.
At the Conservator Booth, people of all ages tried the Digging the Past Activity, where they could pretend to excavate precious artifacts. And at the Curator Booth, visitors had a different taste of coffee culture by trying their hand at painting with coffee! Other highlights included a calligraphy demonstration by Persatuan Seni Khat Kebangsaan and Wariscan, a prototype smartphone app with a Virtual Kiswah and Virtual Reality Holy Kaabah.
Overall, it was a splendid day of learning for all IAMM visitors. Many of the young patrons left with a new regard for museums as an exciting place to learn and experience new things. And for the museum, it was an excellent opportunity to engage with the public and strengthen connections with them.