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Museum Definition

Museum Definition

Take part in creating a new museum definition – the backbone of ICOM

The need of a new museum definition

Over recent decades museums have radically transformed, adjusted and re-invented their principles, policies and practices, to the point where the ICOM museum definition no longer seems to reflect the challenges and manifold visions and responsibilities. We are thus inviting members and other interested parties to take part in creating a new, more current definition.

You can submit a proposal on the form below until May 20th, 2019, and new proposals will be published here on a continuous basis. A decision on a new definition will take place in Kyoto in September 2019.

The format for a new museum definition

A new definition can be terse as law or concise as a poem. Or both. It can be long or short, a cohesive whole, or split into sections or hierarchies. We have, however, some parameters which we would like a new definition to contain or reflect:

For more background information, please consult the Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials (MDPP) report and recommendations approved by ICOM’s Executive Board  in December 2018, through the button below :

MDPP 2018 Report and recommendations

Submit your definition

  • If your proposal is not in English, a provisional translation is required.
  • Your proposal in its original language
  • Established in 1946, ICOM is a non-profit organisation and a non-governmental organisation which is committed to the research, conservation, continuation and communication to society of the world's natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible (ICOM Statutes).This hearing process through anonymous contributions (and its associated form) is designed by ICOM for public benefit. It does not collect any personal data or other identifying information. Therefore, when publishing submitted contributions, no personal data will be associated with the proposals.ICOM owns the copyright privileges over all responses and reserves all rights to introduce changes on the proposed definitions without asking permission from their contributors.The public presentation of the collected contributions is the exclusive right of ICOM as copyright holder. By filling this form, contributors understand that they cannot claim rights on any possible future definition which may be resulted through this collective process. For any questions, you may contact Afsin Altayli, Museums and Society coordinator afsin.altayli@icom.museum

Current definition

Since ICOM’s creation in 1946, the ICOM definition played a central role for museums and museum professionnals 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.