Why I Love Museums

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

May 18 is celebrated as International Museum Day.  From 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.”

In honour of this day, I have compiled a list of just of a few of the reasons why I love museums.

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1) Museums celebrate the past, but they also allow for critical examination of it as well.

Last summer, I visited the newly revamped Canadian Museum of History and was truly impressed at how different the Canadian History Hall was to its predecessor.  The story of Canada was still being told, but unlike before, there was a plethora of perspectives being offered. It was clear it was curated in a time of Truth and Reconciliation as the Indigenous perspectives were being woven throughout each section of the exhibit.  The final gallery was of particular interest as it brought in many stories of minorities and their experiences in Canada.

Here at the Oshawa Museum, we are continually examining the traditional story of Oshawa, in particular, how it is NOT always reflective of our complete community.  For example, the wealthy industrialists are remembered, but not often talked about are the workers who worked in the plants and secured the wealth for the owners.  Experiences of minorities haven’t always been collected and shared, and our Archivist is constantly working to ‘Change the Narrative.’

Museums are spaces where narratives should be challenged.

2) Museums are FUN.

Let’s look at the numbers. According to the Ontario Museum Association, every year Ontario’s Museums see 19.4 million visitors, 93.5 million online visits and 38,112 school visits.  With numbers like this, we must be doing something right! How often are your trips planned with museums or cultural visits in mind? How often do you attend events at your local museums because they sound fun (like our Yoga in the Garden, Annual Lamplight Tour, or Scenes from the Cemetery)?

My favourite tour I’ve delivered (and there’s been a lot of them) was over March Break a few years back, and about half way through a young visitor said, “You know, I thought this was going to be boring, but it’s actually really cool!” There was no greater compliment than that.

3) Museums and Community are intrinsically linked.

As I asked above, how often are your trips planned with museums or cultural visits in mind?  Any time I take a trip, I try to visit a local community museum so to better learn about the history of where I’ve visiting. Community museums are just that – about the history of their municipalities. Community can take a much broader meaning as well.  For example, our friends at the Canadian Automotive Museum – their community of car enthusiasts has a national and even international scale! Community isn’t just the geo-political boundaries. Community is so much more, and museums are there to celebrate.

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From my museum travels around Ontario – Outside the Waterloo Region Museum (and failing at a jump pic…), Bytown Museum, Huron County Museum, McMichael Art Gallery, and Gibson House Museum

4) Museums are more than brick and mortar.

When you picture a museum, what comes to mind? A building? A historic house? Museum often brings to mind a place, however, without the collections, what is a museum except an empty building. The collections is what brings a museum to life, the genuine, one-of-a-kind things that each have their own story to tell.  Our photography collection shows how much our community has changed and in what ways it’s stayed the same.  I could easily geek out about our Rebellion Boxes and have to retrain myself when talking about them on tour. Every visitor looks at our 1862 Tackabury Map and can make connections with it, whether it’s finding their home town on the map, marvelling at changes (like visitors from Kitchener, which was then Berlin), or simply laughing about the time table and how completely useless it is in 2018 with standard time.

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Aside from the collections, we often find ourselves engaging with the community outside of the Museum.  We love sharing stories from the past on our various walking tours.  We don’t have to be on-site in our houses to talk about our community and its history.

5) Museum people are good people.

Not only is it the collections that make a museum shine, but also the people who work in them.  Again from the OMA, there are over 11,600 museum professionals and over 35,500  volunteers.  Museum people love what they do, they are passionate, knowledgeable, and are more than happy to tell you why working for a museum is one of the coolest jobs a person can have.

Happy International Museum Day!

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