This article appeared in the May 17, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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The future of the past: Museums as shepherds of our collective story

Amr Nabil/AP/File
Women look at one of the coffins of King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian museum in Cairo. Many museums around the world will be offering special events and admissions on Sunday, May 18, in celebration of International Museum Day.

Saturday is a cultural holiday of sorts. No, it isn’t Memorial Day weekend in the United States already. May 18 is International Museum Day, set by the International Council of Museums to celebrate museums as lively cultural centers for their communities.

Institutions around the globe are celebrating with special events and admissions. Entry into the Philadelphia Art Museum will be free, for instance. All museums in Cairo will be free as well. The Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik in Croatia will host an art workshop for children.

But on International Museum Day we might also reflect on the struggles of some nations to retrieve and display their own artifacts – their own story – to their own people. 

In Africa, efforts to repatriate art stolen or looted during the age of colonialism continues. The Monitor recently wrote on this subject in a story on Nigeria’s claim to Benin bronze reliefs displayed in the British Museum.

Iraq continues to search for antiquities looted from its national museum during the chaos of the U.S.-led 2003 invasion. Hundreds have been returned, but hundreds more are still missing. 

As recent fires at the National Museum of Brazil and Notre Dame have reminded us, the world’s cultural institutions are more than repositories for historical artifacts. They serve as bridges between our past and the present. To ensure that role continues well into the future, museums everywhere are reinventing themselves for modern audiences, becoming more interactive, adaptable, and community oriented.

Now on to our five stories for the day, which range from an apparent disconnect within the Trump administration on policy toward Iran to an elderly rice seller’s unique window into the changes of modern Japan.

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This article appeared in the May 17, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/17 edition