Museums participating in International Museum Day include art collections, music theaters, cultural centers, and natural history museums, such as this one in Santana do Cariri, Brazil. The Museu de Paleontologia (museum of paleontology) focuses on pterosaurs—and students can help dig for fossils!

Photograph by Jonathan Blair, National Geographic
  • On May 18, 1977, the world first celebrated International Museum Day. Each year, the International Council of Museums chooses a theme for the celebration. In 1992, for instance, the theme was “Museums and the Environment.” In 2017, the theme is "Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums."
    More than 35,000 museums participate in International Museum Day. Each museum offers different activities. The Museu de Arte Moderna (Museum of Modern Art) in São Paulo, Brazil, for instance, offers a “sensorial tour” of its sculpture garden aimed at hearing-impaired visitors, with information translated into sign language. The National Museum in Lagos, Nigeria, will offer essay and painting opportunities for elementary school students. The Jewish Museum of Australia, in Melbourne, will offer visitors a rare behind-the-scenes look at how historians and curators collect and display objects. Kids of all ages will put together gigantic puzzles at the Museum of San Carlos University in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
    One of the signature events of International Museum Day is the “European Night of Museums.” At this continent-wide event, museums stay open until 1 a.m.! Some of the events include “night tastings.” At the Natural History Museum in Grenoble, France, for instance, the tasting will put a focus on the museum’s spider exhibit. Visitors will be invited to eat a giant “cocoon”—cotton candy!
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    celebrate Verb

    to observe or mark an important event with public and private ceremonies or festivities.

    cocoon Noun

    silky covering spun by silkworms and other insect larvae in which they live and develop during the pupal stage.

    continent Noun

    one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: continent
    council Noun

    group of people selected to act in an advisory, administrative, or legislative capacity.

    curator Noun

    person who designs, assembles, and manages an exhibit at a museum or other cultural center.

    environment Noun

    conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

    exhibit Noun

    display, often in a museum.

    historian Noun

    person who studies events and ideas of the past.

    impaired Adjective

    weakened or damaged.

    Jewish Adjective

    having to do with the religion or culture of people tracing their ancestry to the ancient Middle East and the spiritual leaders Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    museum Noun

    space where valuable works of art, history, or science are kept for public view.

    sensorial Adjective

    having to do with one or more of the senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, or touch.

    signature Adjective

    unique identifying feature or characteristic.

    translate Verb

    to turn written or spoken text into a different language.