Take part in creating the new ICOM Museum Definition

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Submit your proposal to the new ICOM Museum Definition by 17 July 2020.

ICOM is calling for new museum definition proposals. CIMAM wishes to take part in this process, whereas any keyword or sentence contribution can be a turning point in the representation of the modern and contemporary art community.

Over recent decades museums have radically transformed, adjusted and re-invented their principles, policies and practices, to the point where the ICOM museum definition no longer seems to reflect the challenges and manifold visions and responsibilities. ICOM invites everyone interested in taking part in creating a new, more current definition.

→ This is the current definition, according to the ICOM Statutes, adopted by the 22nd General Assembly in Vienna, Austria, on 24 August 2007:

“A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”

→ This is the definition proposed by ICOM in 2019. The vote of this new museum definition was postponed at ICOM’s Extraordinary General Assembly in September 2019:

Museums are democratising, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures. Acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they hold artefacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations and guarantee equal rights and equal access to heritage for all people.

Museums are not for profit. They are participatory and transparent, and work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.

Visit ICOM's official site.

CIMAM members should keep in mind the following ICOM’s general criteria when choosing the most suitable words for the best definition:

  1. the museum definition should be clear on the purposes of museums, and on the value base from which museums meet their sustainable, ethical, political, social and cultural challenges and responsibilities in the 21st century
  2. the museum definition should retain – even if current terminology may vary – the unique, defining and essential unity in museums of the functions of collecting, preserving, documenting, researching, exhibiting and in other ways communicating the collections or other evidence of cultural heritage
  3. the museum definition should acknowledge the urgency of the crises in nature and the imperative to develop and implement sustainable solutions
  4. the museum definition should acknowledge and recognise with respect and consideration the vastly different world views, conditions and traditions under which museums work across the globe
  5. the museum definition should acknowledge and recognise with concern the legacies and continuous presence of deep societal inequalities and asymmetries of power and wealth - across the globe as well as nationally, regionally and locally
  6. the museum definition should express the unity of the expert role of museums with the collaboration and shared commitment, responsibility and authority in relation to their communities
  7. the museum definition should express the commitment of museums to be meaningful meeting places and open and diverse platforms for learning and exchange
  8. the museum definition should express the accountability and transparency under which museums are expected to acquire and use their material, financial, social and intellectual resources
  9. Legislative aspects (with reference to the ICOM Statutes)
  10. Ethical aspects (with reference to the ICOM Code of Ethics)

The 2020–22 Engaging with ICOM group consisting of CIMAM board members Mami Kataoka (Chair), Suzanne Cotter, Suhanya Raffel, Frances Morris, Ernestine White-Mifetu, and Bart de Baere will review the proposals and submit to ICOM.

Submit your proposal by 17 July 2020 through this form or by sending an email to info@cimam.org