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The 23rd ICOM General Conference in Rio: four days of dialogue on museum issues

The 23rd ICOM General Conference was officially launched on Monday, 12 August, 2013, at the Cidade das Artes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the theme Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change. Museums professionals from around the world took this unique opportunity to examine the the issues facing museums today, and to learn about the Brazilian approaches to the changing museum landscape.

The 23rd ICOM General Conference in Rio: four days of dialogue on museum issues

COMCOL and MINOM joint workshop at the Museu da Maré ©Ingrid Boiteux

Museologist Ulpiano B. Meneses opened the discussions with a keynote speech on the theme The museum and the human condition: the sensorial horizon. Presentations were also given by Jorge Melguizo, an active figure in the city of Medellín, Colombia, and by the Director of the Cátedra Medellín in Barcelona,  Jorge Wagensberg, who posed the question, What should happen when you get out of a museum? Museums, cultures and societies. Meanwhile, the Scientific Director of the Foundation La Caixa in Spain presented The Observatory Museum: a new concept based on intellectual joy and on Saturday, 17 August, Mozambican writer Mia Couto will offer participants a perspective on the relation between time, orality and the museum object as a collective symbol.

Watch Mia Couto’s intervention live

Since Monday, ICOM’s International Committees have organised interactive sessions  as well as visits, discussion panels and roundtables highlighting the characteristics of Brazilian museums in their respective fields.

ICOFOM (Committee for Museology), CIDOC (Documentation) and ICTOP (Training) organised collective sessions at the University of Rio (UNIRIO), which also involved the Program in Museology and Heritage (PPG-PMUS, UNIRIO-MAST), the School of Museology (UNIRIO) and the Network of Museology Professors and Researchers.

On the same day, a workshop took place at the Museu da Maré, organised by the International Committee for Collecting (COMCOL) and the affiliated organisation, MINOM (International Movement for a New Museology). The Museu da Maré is the first museum created in a favela of Rio de Janeiro. It is a local  which combines the conservation the neighbourhood residents’ memory and social action. 

Meanwhile, ICR (Regional Museums) dedicated a morning session to the theme Reshaping Regional Identities, emphasising Brazilian experiences with two notable presentations on strengthening local identity with the Ecomuseum of Sepetiba, and on the eco-museum of the Amazon as an example of sustainable development. The programme also included two further speeches entitled Memory and Identity in Brazilian Regional Museums by Henrique de Freitas, and The Need for Memory by Odalice Miranda Priosti, from the Community Ecomuseum of Santa Cruz.

Finally, on 14 August, the ICOM International Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC) organised a day of presentations based on the diversity of the speakers and perspectives. Conservation issues specific to countries as diverse as Nigeria, Philippines, Greece, the USA, Egypt and Brazil were discussed.

The 23rd General Conference of ICOM will end on 17 August at the close of the General Assembly, during which the results of the election of the new Executive Council of ICOM and its President will be announced.