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June 27, 2018

ConferenceFor the first time, Annual Meetings without borders

From the 6th to the 8th of June, Paris became once again the centre of ICOM’s activities. The French capital welcomed more than 350 members of our organisation for the 2018 Annual Meetings, held at the UNESCO headquarters. However, this year for the first time, the conference was made accessible to the largest number of members ever via Facebook Live. The decision to retransmit in real time several sessions of the conference comes from ICOM’s priority to boost accessibility and transparency for its members, as well as finding new ways of connecting with our international, ever-growing membership. In total, more than 2,000 people watched the live – eight times the capacity of the conference room!

Two sessions were retransmitted: the keynote speech, delivered by American artist Fred Wilson, and the General Assembly. In his speech, Wilson, whose work focuses on challenging assumptions of history, culture, race, and conventions of display, addressed how underlying biases affect the way museums present their collections. The 34th ICOM Ordinary General Assembly opened with the presentation of the Annual Report of the President by Suay Aksoy, which highlighted the various milestones of our organisation reached in 2017: from an increase of 10% in our membership and new publications, to important advances in the fight against the illicit traffic in cultural goods and outstanding social media numbers.

This year’s was an exciting one for many reasons. Three cities were in the frontline for the elections of the host city of the 2022 General Conference. Oslo (Norway), Prague (Austria) and Alexandria (Egypt), presented their candidature during the Advisory Council meeting and allowed the participants to look into their culture with goodies and information about their cities in their stands. The Advisory Council voted its recommendation in favour of the Egyptian city, a victory that was conditioned by the Executive Council pending to meet certain requirements by December. Another important vote was the one on the themes of International Museum Day 2020 and 2021. From all the proposals, the topics selected were Museums for Diversity and Inclusion 2020 and Museums: Inspiring the Future 2021.

Aside from the keynote Fred Wilson, other remarkable guest of these Annual Meetings was Koji Kinutani, the renowned Japanese artist behind the poster for the ICOM 2019 General Conference in Kyoto, which was presented during the conference. The work, entitled Light Descends on Kyoto, depicts the sculpture of bodhisattva Manjushri riding a lion. Manjushri is one of Buddhism’s most iconic deities, symbolising wisdom and insight. The letters on the left side of this painting express the spiritual concept of nondualism— the oneness of seeming opposites, such as salt and sugar, or good and evil. In Kinutani’s words, the message of the poster is that “through art and culture, we can open our hearts and see through dichotomies to cultivate an inner world that encapsulates life’s greatest truths”.

ICOM also proposed a larger variety of workshops which allowed members to better understand our organisation and to shape the way it answers to the challenges the museum community faces today. The Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials Permanent Committee held a workshop focusing on societal trends and new patterns in museum practices; the Department of Programmes of ICOM welcomed members to identify opportunities for capacity building in different regions of the world; the ICOM Strategic Plan workshop presented the findings from the strategic plan survey; and three workshops were held to meet the Standing Committees SAREC and ETHCOM, and the ICOM Working Group on the Future of International Committees.

After the first day of sessions, the participants were invited to a reception at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, where they had the opportunity to do a private visit of the current exhibition, “In Tune With The World”. We have made the pictures of the reception as well as the pictures of the opening of the Annual Meetings available online. Next year, the we will meet again in Kyoto (Japan), during the 2019 General Conference of ICOM. To keep up to date with the latest news about the Triannual Meeting, check the Kyoto 2019 website and follow their Facebook page.