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“To me, ICOM’s greatest value is its global network” – Interview with ICOM President Prof. Dr Hans-Martin Hinz

ICOM President Prof. Dr Hans-Martin Hinz gave an interview to ICOM Portugal, which will be featured in the National Committee’s September newsletter.
In the interview, Hinz looks back on his career as a museum professional and his involvement with ICOM over the past decades.

“To me, ICOM’s greatest value is its global network” – Interview with ICOM President Prof. Dr Hans-Martin Hinz

© ICOM

“When I joined the German National History Museum [30 years ago], which has a very international concept, it was clear to me that ICOM was the ideal organisation to link this new museum with the world and for me, to learn from other museum colleagues as much as possible. […] To me ICOM’s greatest value is its global network. Museums everywhere are becoming more and more international, many of them global. In exhibits we explain not only our own history and culture, but also the past of others. Therefore, it is worthwhile to know how museum professionals think and work in other parts of the world. The ‘products’ of our doing, the exhibitions, become more authentic if we include the experiences and knowledge of others. ICOM is the ideal forum for that.”

He analyses the museological reality in a Europe in crisis, while acknowledging that in some regions of Europe, museums are “booming”: “It is important that museums explain to the owners of museums – in Europe, mostly public owners – about the importance of museum work in the service of society. If we look back into history, cultural policy has often reacted to societal changes and has stimulated the educational sector, museums included. Museums today compete with others and we need to convince politicians that investments in the cultural sector, especially in times of crisis, have an important sustainable effect. […] The Lisbon-Declaration is an important step. More and more politicians and organisations addressed are growing aware of that.”

Hinz makes an appeal to museum professionals to get further engaged in the international museum community following the lead of ICOM: “Museums and museum professionals need to reflect on the challenges of the time. They can be frontrunners in the service of society when participating in societal change. Today they want to be inclusive, strive to work sustainably, seek to present different views on history and culture, and in several counties, museums are places of reconciliation. In my view ICOM is an ideal organisation to support this development by permanently offering international exchange. Learning about the work of others and explaining one’s own experiences and expectations is a great help for our everyday work.” 

What about the future of ICOM? As ICOM President for two terms and having played different roles within ICOM, Hinz is highly optimistic about the future of the organisation, driven by its enthusiastic and devoted members. He highlights the importance of ICOM’s Code of Ethics, “which is accepted worldwide as a moral standard and is almost two decades old, as is the museum definition. Since the world has changed in the meantime it would be wise for the membership to discuss [these texts] in order to figure out if they need an update.”