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International Museum Day
@The Wednesday English Conversation Club
Bethesda Library, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA

Let us get started…
Since 1977, each year around May 18, International Museum Day is celebrated.

The organizers believe:
Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, co-operation, and peace among peoples.

Do you agree? Today we will look at museums here in America as well as in our home countries!

The Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology University of Oxford, UK
National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

A private collection of natural history curiosities was donated to the University of Oxford, England, and opened to the public on 6 June 1683. The Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology thus became the first permanent public exhibition housed by a corporation. In the next century, the opening of the British Museum and the Louvre heralded the dawn of a new age of government-supported public education and gift-shop trinkets. (Source: Ben Mauk)

Museums make their unique contribution to the public by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the things of this world. Museums include both governmental and private museums of anthropology, art history and natural history, aquariums, arboreta, art centers, botanical gardens, children's museums, historic sites, nature centers, planetariums, science and technology centers, and zoos. (Source: American Association of Museums)

America’s Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1846, has 19 museums, 9 research centers, and the National Zoo. Its National Museum of the American Indian opened in 2004.

Over to you:
Think about your experience with museums in your home country…in this country…

In pairs for 5 minutes, ask, listen, and answer these questions:
• What was the first museum you ever visited? Where was it?
• With whom did you go?
• What did you do there? What did you see?
• How much did it cost? How long did you stay?
• Have you ever gone back? Why or why not?
Share your partner’s answers with the group.

Round Robin ~ each client, in turn, asks the table one of the following questions:

What is your favorite Smithsonian museum and why? What do you buy in the gift-shop?

What is your favorite museum or object in the world? Why? How many times have you seen it?

Have you ever visited a historic house museum? Which one, where? Do you have local history museums inside old or famous houses in your home country? Why or why not?

A museum that focuses on one particular race or ethnic group is called a folk museum. Have you ever visited a folk museum? What was the focus? Do you have folk museums in your country? Why or why not? Is there a group you feel are over-looked?

Did you know botanical gardens and arboreta are also museums…of plants? Have you ever visited a botanical garden? Which one, where? Do you enjoy botanical gardens in your home country? Why or why not?

Did you know zoos and aquariums are also museums…of animals? When was the last time you went to the zoo? Which one, where? Are zoos only for children in your home country? Why or why not? Can you feed the animals nowadays?

Do you have children’s museums in your home country where children are allowed to dress up and play in historic or career settings? Are they educational? Why or why not?

Are maritime, industrial, and railway museums popular with adults as well as children in your home country? Did you have a toy boat or a train set as a child? What toys did you play with?

School groups visit science-technology centers every year in the US. What field trips did your school take? Did everyone get to go? Is it fair if parents have to pay extra? Why or why not?

The Smithsonian is free to the public. It is paid for by our tax dollars. Are museums free in your home country? How expensive are museums there compared to the cost of a meal or a movie?

Most Smithsonian museums are open daily, 10am-5:30pm, except December 25. When are museums open in your home country? How late?

What is the most valuable or rare object or specimen you or your family owns? Is its value aesthetic, historical, scientific, or spiritual? Have you had it appraised? Would you consider giving it to a museum? Why or why not?

The US has Federal historic preservation and archaeology laws. What would you do if you found something valuable or rare? What have you found and what did you do with it? What is the law in your home country?

Museums today have to establish the provenance of an object or specimen. How important is it to you that they know the history of an item from its discovery or creation to the present day?

Sculpture from the Parthenon in war-torn Athens was brought to London by Lord Elgin 200 years ago. People then and now argue whether he was a savior or a vandal. Do you think the UK should return the marbles to Greece? What else should be returned? Why or why not?

Lastly, what about the future? Do you think the next generation in your home country will care about and visit museums more than you do? Less? Why or why not?

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