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Six Tips for Museum & Heritage Organizations

Tags: Tipsheet, Municipalities, Activity organizers, Activity Ideas, Community Organizers, Museums

Does your museum, heritage site or heritage association need a little inspiration to get started on planning an activity for this year’s Culture Days? Here are six great examples of how museums and heritage organizations can participate in Culture Days.

Culture Days is not just for the arts – Heritage is part of culture too!

Culture Days is about celebrating the full spectrum of what “culture” represents. Ontario Museum Association Executive Director Marie Lalonde reminds us that “Historical, natural sciences and other types of museums, as well as heritage associations of all stripes, are welcome to participate. Reach out to new audiences through Culture Days by sharing some of the unique local artifacts and stories your museum is dedicated to preserving.”

Example: The Windsor's Community Museum in Windsor offered free admission during Culture Days to its exhibit "By the River's Edge: A History of Windsor." This exhibit focused on the history of Windsor and area from the pre-contact era through the present.

Culture Days is a chance to correct public misperceptions

Meg Hamilton, Executive Director of the Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa acknowledges that “Sometimes public perceptions of museums and heritage sites are based on outdated stereotypes that these places are boring and stuffy institutions. Yet, many museums regularly present fun-filled, hands-on activities and heritage sites often have live re-enactments and other participatory events.” Culture Days is a chance to highlight this type of programming and help the public discover that museums and heritage sites are full of exciting, entertaining things to do.

Example: The Gardiner Museum in Toronto offered a chance to work in its clay studios, participate in a family activity, vote for the RBC Emerging Artist Awards winner, and see an open rehearsal of Shannon Litzenberger's The Book of Marvels, based on the poetry of Lorna Crozier.

What’s in the Vault?

Most museums are only able to display a small fraction of their collections at any given time yet the public often doesn’t know about the work museums do to catalogue, store and protect artifacts in their collections. Vault tours and curator talks are two easy ways to share the fascinating work that goes on behind-the-scenes at museums. What if, for security reasons, you can’t provide an actual tour of the vaults or collections facilities? Do it virtually with a slideshow of some of the hidden treasures of the collection. Or invite the public to bring their own family heirlooms to the museum where they can learn about techniques for protecting and storing these items for future generations.

Food and drink can bring history to life

What better way to commune with the past than to smell and taste it? See a meal being created from 100-year-old recipes, learn about dining etiquette from days-of-yore and taste some long-forgotten ingredients that were mainstays in our ancestors’ diets. These are just a few of the ways that food and drink can make history interactive.

Example: The Glooscap Heritage Centre and Mi'kmaq Museum in Millbrook, Nova Scotia let visitors sample traditional Mi’kmaq bread for Culture Days.

Celebrate some anniversaries

Take advantage of the public awareness around historical anniversaries to attract interest in your Culture Days events.

Doors Open Collaborations

If your community is celebrating Doors Open, speak with your local Doors Open organizer about how to cross-promote these events through Culture Days.

Submitted by Aubrey Reeves of Culture Days Ontario.