by Rana Asfour
Every year since 1977 International Museum Day is organised worldwide around May 18. This day is an occasion to raise awareness on how important museums are in the development of society. This year's theme is Museums and Cultural Landscapes, which is also the theme of the General Conference of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), to be held in Milan, Italy from 3 to 9 July 2016.
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.” Organised on and around 18 May each year, the events and activities planned to celebrate International Museum Day can last a day, a weekend or a whole week. Participation in International Museum Day is growing among museums all over the world. In 2015, more than 35,000 museums participated in the event in some 145 countries.
Here's how BookFabulous decided to mark this year's event:
The Smithsonian in Washington, US
It is believed that The Smithsonian first appeared in an 1869 novel by Mark Twain entitled 'The Innocents Abroad'. The novel is based on Twain's real excursion aboard a refurbished Civil War ship, the Quaker City (USS Quaker City) to the Holy Land. Twain's trip includes stops in Paris for the 1867 Paris Exhibition, the Black Sea and numerous Mediterranean ports. The story reveals Twain's reflection on Americans in foreign countries and the reaction of history meeting modernisation.
The Smithsonian has also been referenced in 'The Professor's House' by Willa Cather (1925), 'Wing of Fame: A Novel Based on the Life of James Smithson' by Louise Wallace Hackney (1934), 'Murder in the Smithsonian' by Margaret Truman Daniel (1985) as well as 'A Perfect Spy' by John le Carre (1986) among others.
The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, Turkey
This museum was founded in Turkey after a book carrying its name authored by Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. 'The Museum of Innocence' - set in Istanbul between 1975 and today - tells the story of Kemal, the son of one of Istanbul's richest families, and of his obsessive love for a poor and distant relation, the beautiful Fusun, who is a shop-girl in a small boutique. In his romantic pursuit of Füsun over the next eight years, Kemal compulsively amasses a collection of objects that chronicles his lovelorn progress; a museum that is both a map of a society and of his heart.
Pamuk built 'The Museum of Innocence' in the house in which his hero's fictional family lived, to display Kemal's strange collection of objects associated with Fusun and their relationship. The house opened to the public in 2012 in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul.
The Louvre in Paris, France
Written in 1927 by Arthur Bernède, the author of Judex, the classic of French criminal literature 'Belphégor' (The Phantom of the Louvre), spawned no less than three motion pictures, one television series and one animated show.
Also, in more recent times, 'The De Vince Code' by Dan Brown, a novel that has spurred and continues to spur various trips to the Louvre in which visitors get to walk in the footsteps of the book's hero Robert Langdon. The novel begins with Harvard professor Langdon receiving a late night call to assist in the murder of the Louvre's curator found inside the museum alongside baffling codes. An investigation ensues that will lead to uncovering some of history's best kept secrets.
The British Museum in London, UK
Probably the first work of fiction in which the British Museum Reading Room plays an important part as a setting is 'New Grub Street' by George Gissing, published in 1891.
'The British Museum is Falling Down' is a brilliant comic satire of academia, religion and human entanglements. First published in 1965, it tells the story of hapless, scooter-riding young research student Adam Appleby, who is trying to write his thesis (in the reading room of The British Museum) but is constantly distracted - not least by the fact that, as Catholics in the 1960s, he and his wife must rely on 'Vatican roulette' to avoid a fourth child.
Virginia Woolf made reference to the British Museum Reading Room in a passage from her 1929 essay, 'A Room of One's Own'. She wrote, "The swing doors swung open, and there one stood under the vast dome, as if one were a thought in the huge bald forehead which is so splendidly encircled by a band of famous names'.
New York Museum of Natural History in New York, US
The thriller 'Relic' and its sequels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are set in their entirety in the halls of the New York Museum of Natural History which witness deaths that the police describe as 'un-human' bringing in agent Pendergast to investigate. Author Douglas Preston was manager of publications at the museum before embarking upon his fiction writing career.
The museum is also mentioned in J.D. Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye', the novel 'A Murder at the Museum of Natural History' by Michael Jahn (1994) as well as being the setting for the 1970 novel 'The Great Dinosaur Robbery' by David Forrest among others.
& museums in children books
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the setting for the children's book by E.L.Konigsburg entitled 'From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler' (1967). The book won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1968. In 2005, it was voted as one of the 100 best books for children. In 2012 it was ranked number seven among all-time children's novels in a survey published in the US.
The story revolves around New York City girl Claudia, a mere month shy of being a twelve-year-old, who has resolved to run away from home with her younger brother, Jamie. Her destination? The grand, elegant, beautiful, all-encompassing Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, no sooner do they settle into their new home, than they are caught up in the mystery of an angel statue bought by the museum for the bargain price of $225. Claudia is determined to find out whether the statue is in fact a Michelangelo worth millions, and her quest leads her to the remarkable, secretive Mrs. Frankweiler, who sold the statue to the museum - and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.