Since ICOM’s creation in 1946, the ICOM definition played a central role for museums and museum professionals and became a reference in the international museum community.
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.”
In the aftermath of the 2016 ICOM General Conference in Milan, a new Standing Committee has been appointed to study the current definition. The Committee on Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials (MDPP, 2017-2019) explores the shared but also the profoundly dissimilar conditions, values and practices of museums in diverse and rapidly changing societies. Combining broad dialogue across the membership with dedicated expert fora, the committee is addressing the ambiguous and often contradictory trends in society, and the subsequent new conditions, obligations and possibilities for museums.
Approaching the ICOM Kyoto General Conference in 2019 (1-7 September 2019), on the background of information gathered, new trends observed and documented, and discussions conducted through its various working groups, the committee will advise the Executive Board and the Advisory Council on museological and epistemological problem areas in the existing museum definition. It will make recommendations regarding the potential gains as well as the complication in revising the definition, as a shared, international framework, to reflect and include more current conditions, potentials and priorities for museums.