75 years ago, on November 16 1946, ICOM was born. Join us in celebrating this historic milestone, which comes at a time of both great challenges and opportunities for our organisation.
The heart of ICOM: Peace through cultural exchange
ICOM was founded in 1946, at a time in which calls for pacifism and unity birthed many international organisations with the aim of building a lasting peace in the aftermath of World War II. The conflict was over; but reconciliation was still a long way ahead. Chauncey J. Hamlin, then Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo Museum of Science (United States), envisioned an organisation of museums dedicated to fostering international cooperation. ICOM was born on November 16, 1946 at a meeting held at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
“In 1945, when I met Georges Salles, who was then Director of French museums, I suggested to him that we set up an International Council of Museums. He was immediately enthusiastic and agreed to sign a circular inviting the world’s most eminent museologists to an international meeting at the Louvre in November 1946. His backing helped me to secure the support of the Director of the British Museum in London.” – Chauncey J. Hamlin recalling the creation of ICOM.
From the outset, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) offered to host ICOM on the premises of its Paris headquarters in Avenue Kléber and made it one of the first NGOs with which it established formal links. A year later, on November 8 1947, ICOM celebrated its first General Assembly in Mexico City. Like J. Hamlin, the first few members of our organisation were convinced that, if the culture of every nation was more widely known, there would be a broader ground for mutual understanding.
“Our Founding Fathers faced the ruins, the disaster, the sorrow of World War II. They thought culture was the best way to improve, to understand from our past, for not making a the same mistakes and create a better world” – Alberto Garlandini, President of ICOM
The sustainable future of our organisation
The pandemic has dramatically increased inequalities and widened disparities in access to heritage and participation in cultural life. Yet culture plays a central role in addressing social, political, economic and health crises. Today more than ever, our organisation draws on its values and the context of its creation to affirm that international cooperation is essential to create a global strategy. Education, training and mobility of professionals are key actions both for a sustainable future and for the co-creation of knowledge and empowerment of local communities. ICOM’s 75th anniversary is therefore as much an opportunity to rediscover its history as it is to look to the future.
“Difficult times can also be fruitful and museums raised to the challenge as they digitalised their activities. […] ICOM went also online and we had as many participants as never before so ICOM becomes more democratic, more inclusive, more global.” – Peter Keller, Director of ICOM
Over the next few months, we will be sharing the unique history of our network and revealing previously unpublished archives. We will regularly explore ICOM’s archives to bring you an insight into important events and figures who marked the history of our organisation, which you can find in the News section of our website. All Committees are invited to participate in this year-long event, so please follow your National or International Committee to take part in this anniversary.
In this timeline you will find some of the key dates of the celebrations. Stay tuned!
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