Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Author: Andrea E. Woodberry (page 1 of 7)

Holiday Celebrations in Museums

With Halloween and Veteran’s Day coming up, I began thinking about how American museums respond, or not, to various holidays.

In attempting to stay relevant to their visitors, should museums address holidays? If so, which ones? We certainly cannot expect every museum to celebrate every holiday. If the goal is to stay relevant, it follows that any museums wanting to recognize holidays must know the holidays their visitors observe. Here are some holidays museums might observe:

  • School holidays – vacations that whole cities or states have in common are often treated as holidays by museums. Many museums plan special events knowing that families will be looking for something to do. Just take a look at this partial list from a Boston vacation week last year to see some of the special offerings museums facilitated.
  • ‘National’ days – this is my term for all those days like ‘National Hot Dog Day,’ ‘National Donut Day,’ and ‘National Grandparents Day.’ It seems that almost every day of the year has something similar – and most of them are unknown – so there’s certainly no need for museums to celebrate any, much less all. But if one relates to the subject of a museum or item in its collections, it can be fun to do something as small as having a sale on a café item, a simple activity, or a social media post related to the special day.
  • Religious holidays – these can be tricky for museums, but not if the museum has clear ties to one, or more, religious traditions. This connection may be in a museum’s mission or the stories of a historic site.
  • Ethnic/cultural holidays – museums with strong ethnic ties can be counted on to celebrate the corresponding holidays with programs and events. Other museums, however, may choose to celebrate with a particular ethnic group in their community. For example, large history or art museums without individual ethnic ties may work with local community groups to host celebrations with that community.
  • Government holidays – these holidays are observed by most government offices and many additional organizations, including schools. Government-run museums are often closed on such holidays, but other museums might commemorate the day or welcome greater crowds.

As with any activity a museum sets out upon, the bottom line is a holiday’s connection to the museum’s collection and mission. If the holiday has no connection to either, any celebration may feel forced and irrelevant. Exceptions include collaborations with community groups. If a museum’s community celebrates certain days, museums can often serve as host sites or collaborators with these community groups, celebrating holidays that may or may not directly relate to their collections.

It’s also important to note the variety of ways museums celebrate – from admission discounts to elaborate events to social media posts. Along with choosing the holiday, museums must determine the appropriate way for their institution to celebrate.

How does your museum celebrate holidays?

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

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What We’re Reading: Selfie Factories: The Rise of the Made-for-Instagram Museum

Wonder, an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery, brought in more visitors in six weeks than the whole rest of the year. The Museum of Ice Cream sold out a six-month run in 90 minutes. What do these spaces have in common? Their presence on social media sites, such as Instagram, blew up. Visitors took the ultimate Insta-worthy pics, enticing thousands of others to visit to snag their own photos.

But what is the real impact of these spaces? Do they provoke deeper thinking? Could designing for Instagram be a good museum strategy or does it compromise more authentic engagement with the objects and themes?

The article Selfie Factories: The Rise of the Made-for-Instagram Museum dives into these questions, challenging us to think about the role of social media in the museum world and the role of museums in the social media world.

NEMA Call for Papers


Editors:  Rebekah Beaulieu, Dawn E. Salerno, and Mark S. Gold

We are inviting submissions to be included in this forthcoming book to be published by MuseumsEtc on the centennial of the founding of New England Museum Association (NEMA). Submissions are limited to members of NEMA.

Widely respected as a locus of educational, historical, and cultural activities, New England has long served as a region founded in tradition and expanded with innovation. New England has made innumerable contributions to the museum field in the establishment of museums and academic programs. The founding of New England Museum Association in 1918 fortified the region’s commitment to the development of museums, and it is in the same spirit that we issue a publication dedicated to the state of affairs in museums on the centennial of NEMA. This publication is the first to bring together diverse voices, linked by their commitment to NEMA, in order to contemplate the issues, challenges, strengths, and developments within today’s museums. Curated by NEMA thought leaders, this volume will celebrate and essentialize the tenets at the core of the NEMA mission and of museum leaders everywhere, exploring issues of community, advocacy, thought leadership, other topics in candid considerations of the past, present, and future of museums.


  • To coalesce a variety of perspectives from our members into a publication reflecting the current state of museums, and to consider our roles as producers and consumers in the museum world, and in the context of the evolution of the museum field over the course of the 100 years of NEMA’s existence.
  • To recognize the shifts in culture, urbanization, technology and diversity that have affected and continue to impact the mission, operations, and priorities of museums.
  • To reflect on meaningful museum experiences which NEMA members have been a part of – either as professionals or as visitors – and to contemplate where our field may venture in the future.
  • To offer a diverse range of voices from academic and professional fields, of all backgrounds and age levels.
  • To celebrate the NEMA Centennial by creating of a record of past developments in the museum field, impressions of the current state of museum affairs, and thoughts to lead us onto the future of museums.


We welcome proposals for essays from members of NEMA. Not a member of NEMA? Join today!

Aspects of interest include – but are not limited to –

  • The future of the field and the potential legacy(ies) of museums in America and particularly (but not exclusively) in the New England region
  • The role of innovation, including professional practice and audience programming.
  • Positive and impactful museum experiences.
  • Successful work of museums, including discussions of institutional structures, policies, or practices, inclusive of administration, operations, finances, fund-raising, facilities, collections management, technology, and ethics.
  • Museums as personal, professional, and cultural motivators of change.


If you are interested in being considered as a contributor, please submit a proposal and a short biography (in Microsoft Word format). Proposals should be 300-500 words in length and biographies 100-200 words.

You can propose to submit either a chapter or a case study. Chapters will be 4000-6000 words in length. Case studies will be 1000-2000 words. The inclusion of images is encouraged. Please prepare your proposal with these parameters in mind. The work should not have been published elsewhere and all contributions must be submitted in English – translation services will not be provided.

The deadline for proposals is Monday, November 20, 2017. Please email your proposal to both the editors [] and the publishers []. Any queries in advance of submission should be sent to the editors.

The State of Museums: Voices from the Field will be published by MuseumsEtc in print and digital editions. Contributors will receive a complimentary copy of the publication and a discount on more.


Proposals Due:  November 20, 2017
Contributors Notified:  December 11, 2017
Completed Papers Due:  March 5, 2018


Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s our weekly roundup of new jobs. Happy hunting!

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