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May 4, 2023

ICOM VoicesThe Museum and the environment: archives of the Lourmarin symposium, 1972

The theme chosen for World Museum Day 2023 is “Museum, Sustainability and Well-being” but ICOM’s interest in the issue of the links between museums and the environment is not new.

In 1971, ICOM addressed the subject at its 9th General Conference entitled ” The Museum in the service of man: today and tomorrow. The museum’s educational and cultural role”. This is illustrated by the presentation “museums and environment” by B. Hubendick, Director of the Natural History Museum in Gothenburg, Sweden, (pp. 39-48 of the conference proceedings). It was at this event that the term “ecomuseum” was officially born.

The following year, while the UN was preparing the first major international conference on the environment (Stockholm, 5-16 June 1972), the ICOM secretariat, in close collaboration with its French National Committee and the French Ministry of the Environment, organised the “Museum-environment” symposium (Lourmarin, Dijon and Paris, 25-30 September 1972). The list of participants included 15 invited experts of various nationalities: 8 museum professionals, 3 environmental specialists, 2 educationalists and 2 mayors representing communities. The programme was structured around three themes: research, pedagogy, and the means of expression available to the museum to carry out these tasks. This last theme was itself subdivided into two: integration of disciplines and integration into the environment.

The archive document that we are presenting to you today is the text of Georges Henri Rivière’s introductory presentation to the working session devoted to the integration of the museum in the environment, as it was distributed to the participants. He gives a chronological overview of the place and role of the museum in its environment, which leads to a comparison of two types of museum, the “traditional” museum and the “new” museum, the ecomuseum.

Read the document – English version

The following year, the journal Museum devoted an issue (Vol. XXV, No. 1-2, 1973) to the theme of “Museums and the Environment”, which included, among many other contributions, another article by George-Henri Rivière on the “Role of Museums of art and of human and Social Sciences” (pp. 26-44) and the conclusions of the Lourmarin symposium (pp. 119-120).

The complete archive of this colloquium can be consulted by appointment at the ICOM secretariat. ICOM members can consult all the digitised documents in the Archives database accessible via the members’ area of the ICOM website (to find them easily, enter “Lourmarin” in the free search zone)

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