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ICOM Annual Meetings: Three days full of encounters and discussions for museum professionals

The month of June has arrived, bringing with it the ICOM Annual Meetings, once again. Over three days (from 1 to 3 June, 2015), museum professionals from around the world gathered in Paris to share their thoughts and approaches regarding the multitude of issues that museums are facing today.

ICOM Annual Meetings: Three days full of encounters and discussions for museum professionals

© G.Bruneel/ICOM

This year, participants had the pleasure of listening to French neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux, of the Institut Pasteur and Collège de France. Changeux has worked alongside museums for a number of years, as a supporter of the arts and through his research and publications on art and the brain. He opened the meetings on Monday, 1 June with a keynote speech entitled Beauty in the Brain: The Neuroscience of Artistic Creation.

On the same day, ICOM officially presented a new version of the Emergency Red List of Iraqi Cultural Objects at Risk to the press. This is an updated and enriched version of ICOM’s first emergency Red List on Iraq, published in 2003, and it constitutes a response from the international museum community to the violent events that have rocked the country in recent months, bringing about the destruction of world cultural heritage. The Emergency Red List for Syria (published in September 2013) and the one just published for Iraq are concrete tools intended to prevent looted objects from being illicitly trafficked. 

The Iraq Red List was officially presented to the press at the Louvre, in the presence of Fleur Pellerin, French Minister of Culture and Communication; Jean-Luc Martinez, President-Director of the Musée du Louvre;  Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General; Hans-Martin Hinz, ICOM President; and Richard Stengel, U.S. Department of State Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. International experts who contributed to ICOM’s efforts to draw up the Red List were also in attendance. 

On Tuesday, 2 June, the meetings continued with the session of the ICOM Advisory Committee. Mark O’Neill opened discussions with a speech on Defining the Museum in a New Era, seeking to explore what makes museum professionals tick in order to better serve society in troubled times.

These three days of meetings also resulted in decisions on the 2019 ICOM General Conference. These conferences are held triennially, bringing together members of the international museum community for discussions on a specific theme set forth by museum professionals. 

The delegations from Cincinnati and Kyoto had the opportunity to campaign to participants and members of the different committees during the first two days of the Annual Meetings. On Wednesday, 3 June, Kyoto was selected as the host city for the 2019 edition of the General Conference, during which some 3,000 participants converge for an entire week to discuss, exchange ideas and reflect on museum-related issues. The city will organise conferences on the theme Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition, which aims to highlight the changing role of museums in today’s society: “Amidst altering social, economic, and political environments, once-static institutions are reinventing themselves to become more interactive, audience-focused centres of culture. As part of this transformation, museums are working to create more cohesive, shared visions amongst their employees and in partnership with other institutions and the communities they serve. As museums increasingly grow into their roles as cultural hubs, they are also finding new ways to honour their collections, their histories, and their legacies, making these traditions relevant to an increasingly diverse and global contemporary audience.” The city of Kyoto counts some 200 cultural institutions and is home to 1,681 Buddhist temples and 812 Shinto shrines. The campaign by Cincinnati was also greatly appreciated, and the American delegation was enthusiastically thanked by ICOM President Hans-Martin Hinz for the motivation and commitment displayed to hosting a forthcoming General Conference.

Finally, the themes for International Museum Day 2017 and 2018 were decided upon by an Advisory Committee vote: Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums will be the theme in 2017, and Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics will be the theme in 2018.