International Museum Day 2020

Showcasing stories that make people stop, feel, think and act 

World Press Photo Exhibition 2019 at the Museo de Antioquia in Medellín, Columbia. © Julieta Duque 
18 May is International Museum Day, a day established in 1977 by The International Council of Museums (ICOM) to increase public awareness of the role of museums in the development of society through education and democratisation. Museums and cultural institutions are facing social, economic, and ecological challenges, and this day is the occasion for us to advocate for museums as key actors in our societies.

Exhibiting the stories that matter in museums worldwide

Presenting the results of the foundation’s annual contests, the annual World Press Photo Exhibition showcases the best visual journalism of the last year. We work with local and international partners to reach over 4 million visitors in 120 cities in 50 countries worldwide with our annual exhibition. Together with museums, cultural organizations, embassies, and NGOs we work on our mission to connect the world to the stories that matter. 

Top Left: Exhibition 2019 at TOP Museum in Tokyo, Japan. © Yukari Takahashi - Asahi Shimbun; Top Right: Exhibition 2019 at Muza – Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, Israel. © Jerzy Brinkhof; Bottom Left: Exhibition 2019 at Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, Italy. © Babette Warendorf; Bottom Right: Exhibition 2018 at the National Public Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Algiers, Algeria. © Babette Warendorf.
Alejandra de la Paz, director of the Museo Franz Mayer in Mexico City, which has been partnering with World Press Photo since 1999, says: “Through our temporary exhibition programs we enrich our core mission incorporating design, architecture and photography and linking the relevant contemporary issues to our historic collections.

World Press Photo has enabled the museum to reach a diverse and wider audience, especially young adults, and nontraditional museum goers, which has enriched us enormously. It is one of our most visited exhibitions and we create a very dynamic academic and educational program around World Press Photo that has a wide impact,” she adds.  
Exhibition 2019 at the Museo Franz Mayer in Mexico City, Mexico. © Museo Franz Mayer

Museums and cultural organizations through the COVID-19 crisis

Today, the global community is facing an unprecedented situation as the COVID-19 crisis continues its impact around the globe. UNESCO estimates that 90% of the world’s approximately 60,000 museums are facing full, partial or eventual closure. “Regardless of size, location or status, museums are facing tough challenges, including protecting their collections, ensuring that staff are safe and healthy, dealing with financial issues, and staying engaged with their public,” UNESCO states in this article.

As a nonprofit, private museum that does not receive public funding, we rely on admissions and rentals for events for an important percentage of our annual budget. A deficit in that area will have an impact in terms of our future programs and activities that will be reduced,” says Alejandra de la Paz.

The potential of museums to create meaningful experiences for peoples of all origins and backgrounds is central to their social value. “Museums are more than just places where humanity’s heritage is preserved and promoted”, noted Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO. “They are also key spaces of education, inspiration and dialogue.”

The current crisis has also affected the World Press Photo Foundation and its exhibition partners, with locations of our Exhibition 2020 worldwide tour being cancelled or postponed. Every year, the annual World Press Photo Exhibition premieres in De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, before starting its worldwide tour. This year, the Flagship Exhibition 2020 was postponed and will open on 1 June. Special measures, such as floor marking, adjustment of the exhibition route to maintain 1.5 m distance between visitors, and automatic sanitizer stations have been put in place.

As governments in some countries start to ease measures and allow public spaces to reopen with certain rules, more locations of our World Press Photo Exhibition 2020 tour will be able to open in the coming months, while others have been postponed to later in the year. Check our calendar to see all dates.
The design of the Flagship World Press Photo Exhibition 2020 in De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has been adjusted to follow safety distancing measures. © Jerzy Brinkhof.

Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion

With the theme ‘Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion’, International Museum Day 2020 aims at “becoming a rallying point to both celebrate the diversity of perspectives that make up the communities and personnel of museums, and champion tools for identifying and overcoming bias in what they display and the stories they tell.”

Ensuring inclusion and diversity and navigating complex social issues in increasingly polarised environments are important for museums and cultural institutions. According to Alejandra de la Paz, director of the Museo Franz Mayer in Mexico City, “We need to find new ways in which collections and programs are relevant to audiences and connect to their experiences and daily lives. We need to develop into flexible platforms that engage with more diverse audiences and enable participation and empowerment. These challenges are more pressing as we need to make the importance of museums in society even more evident.

Museums and cultural organizations are central partners to the World Press Photo Foundation, helping us to fulfil our mission by showcasing stories that make people stop, feel, think and act to a worldwide audience.

In these difficult times, International Museum Day can contribute to highlight how vulnerable museums are, and at the same time how important they are as inclusive and diverse spaces for encounters, debate and discussion of contemporary issues,” says de la Paz.