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February 25, 2022

NetworkOn the way to a new museum definition: We are doing it together!

Thanks to the active participation of 116 ICOM Committees, ICOM is approaching the final stages of consultation towards the proposal of a new museum definition and has now launched Consultation 4, the opportunity for membership, through their committees, to rank five draft proposals.

Over the past few months, the members of the ICOM Define Standing Committee worked on drafting definition proposals. These are based on the data received and are a reflection of the choices made by committees during various rounds of consultation. After gathering key terms/concepts (Consultation 2) and having them evaluated by the membership (Consultation 3), independent analysts prepared extensive reports, which are available on the ICOM Member Space. Subsequently, ICOM Define broke into five groups of four people, representing different backgrounds, regional origins and professional experience, to work with the processed data. All proposals were carefully worked on by each of the groups over a period of three months, taking into consideration the data received, legal aspects, cultural specificities, and translation issues. Please find the draft proposals below.

All ICOM committees are encouraged to participate in Consultation 4, including those who couldn’t contribute to the previous consultations, in order to ensure a participatory process. The deadline for Committees to answer the online form is 10 April at midnight (UTC+1).

All chairs and secretaries of ICOM NC, IC, RA and AO received a letter with information about Consultation 4, together with the link to the online form. If you are part of the Board of your Committee and your Chair or secretary hasn’t received the letter, please write to

What’s next? ICOM Define will work with the top ranked proposals that will be presented on May 5-6 at a preliminary Advisory Council meeting, after which there will be a vote on a final proposal that will be submitted to the Executive Board. At the Extraordinary General Assembly, in Prague, a final vote for the new ICOM museum definition will take place.

ICOM Define remains open to hearing from you at all times. You are welcome to contact us at

Let’s keep working together to arrive at a definition proposal that represents us all in our unity and diversity.

The five proposals

Proposal 1

A museum is an accessible, inclusive, not-for-profit institution. It inspires discovery, emotion, reflection, and critical thinking around tangible and intangible heritage. In the service of society, and in active partnership with diverse communities, museums research, collect, conserve, exhibit, educate and communicate. They operate professionally and ethically, promoting sustainability and equity.

Proposal 2

A museum is a permanent, not-for-profit institution, accessible to the public and of service to society. It collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits, tangible, intangible, cultural and natural heritage in a professional, ethical, and sustainable manner for research, education, reflection and enjoyment. It communicates in an inclusive, diversified, and participatory way with communities and the public.

Proposal 3

A museum is a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, exhibits, and communicates tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public, it is accessible, inclusive, and fosters diversity and sustainability. The museum operates professionally, ethically and with the participation of communities, offering varied audience experiences for the purposes of education, enjoyment and the expansion of knowledge.

Proposal 4

A museum is an inclusive, not-for-profit institution, open to the public, which researches, collects, preserves, exhibits, and communicates tangible and intangible heritage, facilitating critical reflections on memory and identity. Museums are in the service of society, providing educational and knowledge sharing experiences. Driven by communities or shaped together with their audiences, museums can take a wide range of formats, fostering equal access, sustainability, and diversity.

Proposal 5

A museum is an open and accessible not-for-profit institution that collects, researches, preserves, exhibits and communicates the tangible and intangible heritage of people and the environment for the benefit of society. Museums are committed to ethical and sustainable practices and are operated in an inclusive and professional manner to create enjoyable and educational experiences that foster curiosity and discovery.