Save our Museums, Our Diversity

©S.Moutaque-Osséni/UNESCO

18 May 2015

Today, UNESCO joins the worldwide community of museums to celebrate the International Day of Museums.

This year’s theme “Museums for a sustainable future” highlights the increasingly vital role of museums, as educators and cultural mediators, in contributing to creating a sustainable society.

70 years ago, after the devastation of World War II, UNESCO was created on the conviction that lasting peace can only be built in the minds of women and men, on the basis of dignity, equality, and mutual respect.

Museums are ideally placed to share this vision. No longer mere temples of erudite scholarship and keepers of artefacts, they play a vital role in education, social cohesion and sustainable development by stimulating intellectual exchange and creativity and as symbols of identity. The international community has acknowledged that museums continue to fulfil a wide variety of useful functions for society at large.

This is why UNESCO and its Member States, in collaboration with ICOM, are elaborating a new non-binding standard-setting instrument for the protection and promotion of museums, their diversity and their role in society. The draft Recommendation will be discussed with more than 150 technical and legal experts as representatives of Member States and observers, during an intergovernmental meeting at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 27-28 May. 

The great potential of museums is all the more apparent in recent years as these institutions have increasingly become the target of violent extremists.  

When museums are threatened for the symbolic value that they hold for the local and international communities, it is precisely their intrinsic role in promoting exchange and dialogue among cultures as the driving force throughout history that we must protect and support.

We need to respond to the intentional destruction of culture and cultural institutions qualified by the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, as “cultural cleansing” by celebrating museums, which is the purpose of this International Day.

Close monitoring must be maintained for museums in Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria, and Tunisia.

You can also be a part of our efforts by joining the new global social media campaign, #unite4heritage, launched by the Director-General of UNESCO in Baghdad, Iraq, to counter the rhetoric of violent extremism and the propaganda of hatred – which the international museum community is invited to join and share.

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