This Saturday, more than 1000 museums in the US will open their doors to the public for free as part of a campaign that aims to promote the excellent choice of cultural experiences available across the country after months of pandemic shutdowns.

Hosted in association with Smithsonian Magazine, the 17th annual Museum Day Live will take place on Saturday 18 September, the first since last year's pandemic cancellation as cultural activities resume. Visitors just need to download a branded ticket for participating institutions and they'll gain entry free of charge to museums, zoos and cultural centers for the day this Saturday, along with one guest.

Read more: Rainy day adventures: go to a museum

Main entry canopy view of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is one of Museum Day Live's participating venues ©rarrarorro/Shutterstock

“As we begin to feel a sense of normalcy in our day-to-day lives, we are honored to welcome the public back to Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. and New York and museums around the country this Museum Day,” said Amy Wilkins, Chief Revenue Officer at Smithsonian Media. “In a year that has challenged us in unprecedented ways it is our hope that this year’s event serves as a reminder of the people, places and cultural experiences that have the power to unite us all.”

Hundreds of museums in all 50 states have already signed up for this year’s campaign, and it is expected that 2021 will be a bumper year. Large and small museums taking part include the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Arts & Design in New York City, the Gibson House Museum in Boston, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC, the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis and many more. You can check for your nearest event here.

This year, the campaign has partnered with Quaker to create a back-to-school giveaway in which children will have a chance to win one of 100 Smithsonian science kits per day. There's also a grand prize giveaway in which teachers and school children can win private Q&A with a museum educator on a cultural field trip for their class.

Each ticket for Museum Day Live grants access to the holder plus one guest, with one ticket being permitted per email address. More information on downloading tickets for Museum Day Live is available on the Smithsonian website.

This article was first published on July 9, 2021 and updated on September 14, 2021.

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This article was first published Sep 20, 2017 and updated Sep 14, 2021.

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