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ICOM active at AAM 2016

The 2016 AAM Annual Meeting & Museum Expo took place from 26 to 29 May, 2016, with top museum leaders gathering in Washington, D.C. to explore how the themes of power, influence and responsibility shape the work of museums in the United States and around the world. David J. Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, served as General Chair of the annual meeting and assured, “We are honored to welcome our professional colleagues from across the country and around the globe to learn from and with each other, and to enjoy the museums, monuments and sites.”

ICOM active at AAM 2016

ICOM international bodies were well represented at the meeting, including the presence of Suay Aksoy, Chair of ICOM’s Advisory Committee. ICOM´s Director General, Anne-Catherine Robert-Hauglustaine addressed the ICOM US Board Meeting on 25 May, focusing on the 2016 ICOM Strategic Plan that stresses three key aspects:  independence, integrity and professionalism. 

Dr Robert-Hauglustaine spoke about ICOM’s 70th anniversary and the upcoming ICOM General Conference to be held in Milan from 3 to 9 July, which will include the exhibition “Where ICOM from”, supported by the ICOM Endowment Fund. The 2016 General Conference will also see the unveiling of ICOM’s new logo. 

A highlight of her speech was the new MoU between AAM and ICOM, already approved by AAM and ICOM US Board, which will be submitted for ICOM Executive Council approval and signature during the General Conference in Milan.

The ICOM Director General mentioned work undertaken in conjunction with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva concerning copyright exemptions for museums. She also presented ICOM Red Lists as a useful tool for fighting illicit traffic, with work currently underway on a Red List for Yemen, supported by the US State Department. 

The Director General mentioned the ICOM Disaster Relief Task Force chaired by Corinne Wegener of the Smithsonian Institution and the joint capacity-building programmes carried out in Nepal last year.  She confirmed that the ICOM International Training Center (ITC) will hold continue to hold seminars at the Palace Museum in Beijing, China in 2016, with a special training workshop held in Tanzania in 2015 and an upcoming one in Doha in 2017. 

On Friday, 27 May at the ICOM US luncheon, in the presence of 150 people and Mr. Richard Kurin, Acting Provost/Under Secretary for Museums and Research, Smithsonian Institute,  as keynote speaker. Mr. Kurin delivered an inspiring speech focusing on the Smithsonian’s work to salvage heritage in danger in countries such as Haiti. France Desmarais, ICOM Director of Programmes and Partnerships, spoke on different occasions during AAM. She first took part in a session on museums at risk where she highlighted the importance for the world museums community to combat illegal trade in art and antiquities. On 29 May she talked at a session, chaired by Diana Pardue, of ICOM’s role and work in drafting the new UNESCO Recommendation on museums and collections. Ms Desmarais also took part in the workshop “Beyond Due Diligence to Grand Collection Stories”, organised by the Smithsonian Institution, providing an international perspective on due diligence and discussing the relevant provisions relating to provenance research in the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. She emphasised the importance of ethical museum practice and ICOM´s tools and programmes, such as the ICOM Red Lists of Cultural Objects at Risk and the International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods, which help prevent illicit traffic.

As Dorothy Kosinski, Chair of the host committee and Director of the Phillips Collection stated, “In a rapidly changing world, museums are a glue that binds communities together,” and the AAM meeting was a perfect place for lively discussions, cooperative efforts and future agreements.