Friday Heirloom 2019

Friday Heirloom 110: How Museums Unite People During the Holidays

It’s finally December! What a great time to be alive. 

As entire cities dress up for the holidays, museums can play a huge role in bringing people together through exhibitions and special programs.

And that’s why, for instance, they should be open late during the holidays! Spending that extra time in museums allows for new perspectives to be formed and shared, as shown multiple times in museums across Europe and (more) in the United States.

I once went to Vienna over the Christmas holidays. Aside from the beautiful sceneries and snowy trees, the city has a fascinating aura surrounding it due to its royal history and musical roots. I loved it and would go back any day!

Once upon a time (at Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna)

Paris, too, is magical during the holidays. Just last year the contemporary Fondation Louis Vuitton put on a show on the treasures from the MoMA, creating a strong (cross-city and country) bond that I hadn’t seen in years. What a way to unite people!

Kirchner at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France

Or, if you’re looking for something more traditional and possibly a little off the beaten path, then I suggest the South of France. The city of Bordeaux with its surrounding vineyards is a great option. I was there a few years ago, in the small town of Saint-Emilion, and the crowded plazas give place to quiet alleys and roads. Definitely something to explore during the holidays! (The city center was just a few years ago included among the UNESCO heritage sites.)

Saint-Emilion, France

As for my home country of Italy, Milan unites fashion and art in a glamorous way! Be it Castello Sforzesco, Palazzo Reale or even the Duomo itself, the city doesn’t stop to amaze me. Rome, obviously, is a living museum and more so at Christmas so you should definitely check out my Instagram to see more.

Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy

But, above all, I want to leave you with a few photos dear to my heart, which were taken in my two “home cities” of San Francisco and Bari.

December view from Pinacoteca di Bari, Italy
San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood dresses up for the holidays

Be it museums, neighbourhoods or entire cities, I love how this time of the year is a time for fun, sharing and new resolutions.

Reflecting on common issues and finding common solutions is one way museums can help create more empathetic societies while uniting groups of people with different backgrounds. For instance, the holidays are a great time for museums and heritage sites to fundraise for common goals, promote ongoing nonprofit initiatives or simply stand with those groups that are in a weaker position or in need.

Italian museums and heritage sites organize concerts, special events and evenings in order to create a festive and cheerful atmosphere but they’re not really socially engaged. Some American museums are known to support common initiatives and promote local artists. (I remember just a few years ago seeing the postcard sets from the Guggenheim supporting young artists and thinking “WOW, they’re really on it”.)

So if you’re lucky enough to have more time off than usual this year, then go to a local museum! But mind the tourists and all the people that just like you want to spend some time engaging with the art. We all know that simple visit to a museum can be daunting this time of the year, or at least more challenging than usual, with long lines and crowded galleries. Plan ahead… (and so should they: museums).

I hope you will consider my suggestions of sites to visit over the end-of-the-year holidays, and I also hope some museums will start realizing how powerful they are, more so this time of the year, and how much they can do to make the world a better place for all.

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