Posted on May 15, 2023

The University of Pretoria (UP) Museums are key contributors to the well-being and to the sustainable development of all communities. As university museums, they serve a very diverse and eclectic academic community and on average welcome over 3000 visitors a month through their gallery doors. This includes members of the public, domestic and foreign tourists and so contribute to the South African tourism economy. The International Council of Museums (ICOM) theme for International Museums Day (IMD) 2023 is, “Museums, Sustainability and Wellbeing” the-power-of-museums/. This year, to celebrate IMD, the UP Museums collaborated with several ideal partners to align closely with the global theme.

The museums are collaborating with UP’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Hub, the Employee Wellness Programme (EWP), the Student Wellness Committee (SWC) and UP Campus Tours (EFK752 Heritage and Cultural Tourism Honours students in the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies in the Faculty of Humanities) for the whole month of May. International Museums Day (IMD) is annually celebrated worldwide with participation by over 4000 museums, both nationally and internationally.

University museums are in a unique position to advocate the importance of research and also serve as agents for social change. The UP Museums are long-standing professional members of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). ICOM implemented the UN Sustainable Development Goals when ICOM initially formed a resolution “On sustainability and the implementation of the Agenda 2030” expressing the support that museums share and create sustainable futures by means of our education, research and exhibition mandate.

This IMD month the university museums together with the SDG Hub aim to promote, advocate and share the benefit and value of museums, along the centered theme of sustainability. The aim is to promote Goal 13 Climate Action and Goal 15 Life on Land as examples and raise awareness of loss of biodiversity (Biodiversity Day is celebrated on the 22 May 2023) and the importance of all the SDGs. The UP Museums promote campus awareness of the value of university museums beyond the teaching, training and research programme which is critical, but also how university museums are stewards of collections and archives entrusted to the institution and how museums are social and not just educational spaces of learning.

University museums are generators of new knowledge are trusted institutions. They are important threads in our shared campus social, cultural and art fabric. Recent studies have shown that museums and art galleries are ideal social spaces to improve depression and lift spirits, as art is the silent healer of many ailments. Many university museums engage with social prescribing to improve mental health and the UP Museums have strongly advocated the health benefits of enjoying and appreciating a museum visit and tour.

By collaborating with the Employee Wellness programme and the Student Wellness Committee, the UP Museums are able to advocate that museums are also spaces of well-being, galleries are ideal places for post- COVID recovery and in general good for one’s well-being. UP is committed to healthy living and support the well-being for all at all ages, in particular emotional health and the recent effects of social isolation. The University of Pretoria is one of the most beautiful campuses in higher education in the country and as a cultural and natural landscape, museums contribute deeply to engagement and impact on the social and educational wellbeing of its community

For IMD this May, the Museums have joined hands with UP Campus Tours (UPCT), a post graduate student module to promote IMD2023 and several outreach initiatives to other campuses were planned for. Monday visits to Mamelodi Campus, Groenkloof Campus and the Medical (Prinshof) Campus were introduced this year into Student Centres to extend the outreach to as many students as possible in raising awareness about International Museums Month and share experiences, tours, and free admission to learn more about sustainability and well-being.

- Author Dr. Sian Tiley-Nel

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