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On May 18, the global cultural community gathered to celebrate International Museum Day (IMD), with this year’s theme being “The Power of Museums.” Established in 1977, the annual event sees museums engaging local and international communities via themed exhibitions, events, and community outreach. In 2021, approximately 37,000 museums participated across 158 countries. 

In China, IMD has increasingly taken root, with not a small handful of museums hosting special programs and activations. This year, the Hubei Provincial Museum served as the main IMD venue, hosting programs such as awards ceremonies for 2021’s National Top 10 Museum Exhibitions and the Most Innovative Museum of 2022, a special exhibition on ancient Chinese instruments, a VR and AR light show on the Yangtze River, and a museum-themed subway train.

IMD and museums in China

Across Weibo, Chinese institutions including (from left) the Guangdong Museum, China Court Museum, and Lushan Museum used the hashtag #2022国际博物馆日# to share special programs and activations. Images: Weibo

Across the country, other museums including the Lingshou County Museum, Hebei Museum, and Shenzhen Museum hosted their own IMD-themed events, such as the Jinsha Site Museum’s activation, which invited visitors to register online for free museum entry, while adhering to so-called  “free but not free” health and safety regulations. On Weibo, the hashtag #2022InternationalMuseumDay (#2022国际博物馆日#) was also used by netizens and institutions to engage with the global event, despite lockdowns.

But regardless of the province, children’s programming was particularly emphasized. For example, the Sanxingdui Museum hosted a lecture and a hands-on experience of its newly announced Exquisite Jadeware Meets Aohan Banner exhibition, which saw students creating their own jade goods. At the China Animation Museum, AR and VR activities were offered for families, alongside the screening of a children’s short film Yun Xiaoman’s Journey of Time and Space.

By pre-registering online, visitors were granted free entry to the Jinsha Site Museum in Chengdu on International Museum Day. Image: Scol.com.cn

And at the Baren Museum in Chongqing, children were invited to excavate at simulated ancient tomb sites in the temporary Archaeological Achievements Exhibition of Dongsun Baren Site. According to Yuan Hua, Director of the Baren Museum, the museum’s archaeological experience was a first. The institution is “hoping to attract more young people to the museum to participate in immersive cultural relic exploration and museum research.” The hands-on programming further helps solidify for children their learning experiences at these institutions.

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For China, a country with 5,788 museums, IMD serves as an opportunity to educate Chinese visitors about the nation’s culture heritage and to build a bridge to the international museum community. According to Zhao Feng, curator at the China National Silk Museum, museums have the power to do three things, “The first is making new technology more powerful and promoting new research. The second is cooperating with more museums in China and abroad. The last is integrating with the community and influencing community members.”

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