Museums have no borders,
they have a network

According to the ICOM Statutes, adopted by the 22nd General Assembly in Vienna, Austria, on 24 August 2007, the current definition is as follows:

“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.

Museum Definition: A way forward

Aiming to respond to the need for a democratic and open process of consultation to the National Committees, International Committees, Regional Alliances and Affiliated Organisations that constitute ICOM, the Standing Committee for the Museum Definition formulated a new methodology going forward. The design of this methodology is based on greater transparency, as well as the careful listening to all proposals. At this point, members of MDPP2 agreed that a change in the name would be advisable and it was requested to the ICOM leadership that the new name be ICOM Define: Standing Committee for the Museum Definition.

Consultation 1

Consultation 1 was the opportunity for committees to submit their reports regarding activities they held in 2019/2020 related to the museum definition. We received richly varied responses from 23 National Committees, 6 International Committees, 1 Affiliated Organisation and 1 Working Group. The responses to this first round of consultation yield important considerations, all of which are very valuable and will help committees going forward as they submit their responses to the forthcoming consultations.

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Consultation 2 

ICOM carried out Consultation 2 on keywords and concepts that the museum definition should include. The results went through a quantitative and qualitative analysis conducted by three independent data analysts recruited by ICOM for this purpose. We invite you to look at what ICOM’s Members around the world have to say. This report on the results of Consultation 2 will be the base material for the following steps of the Methodology.

Results of Consultation 2

Results of Consultation 2 – abbreviated version

Consultation 3

Committees, Regional Alliances and Affiliated Organisations were asked to review the list of key words and concepts published in the Consultation 2 Report and submit their feedback through an online form. All responses received have been analysed. The data analysts, recruited by ICOM for this purpose, worked on a complete report that you can find here:

Report on Consultation 3

Consultation 4

The members of ICOM Define worked on drafting five definition proposals, basing their work on the results of the data analysis of Consultation 2 and 3. On Consultation 4 ICOM committees were asked to rank the five proposals and had the possibility of commenting on their top choice. ICOM Define worked intensively on processing the results and elaborating the final two proposals. On Thursday, May 5th, the Advisory Council met to discuss and vote them.

Report on Consultation 4

Final Report

The Advisory Council selected the museum definition proposal to bring forward to vote at the Extraordinary General Assembly, which will be held on August 24th during ICOM Prague 2022.


“A museum is a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection and knowledge sharing.

ICOM Define submitted the selected museum definition proposal to the Executive Board along with the final report.

Final report

The methodology

The approved methodology, greatly based on the expressed need for consultation, moves towards a new phase of this process, aiming to arrive at the next ICOM General Conference in 2022 with a museum definition proposal to be submitted for a vote. The methodology is based on 4 rounds of consultation, divided into 11 steps with a duration of 18 months. The proposed schedule begins on December 10, 2020 and ends in early May 2022, but may be adjusted depending on the circumstances.

Dates are provided in the following methodology so that committees can arrange, well in advance, the activities they must coordinate for consultation of their constituents. Results will be published periodically and made available for the membership in the “Museum Definition” space, where it is possible for members to consult all the documents related to the Museum Definition reformulation project, including all documents produced by the MDPP, as well as the reports of surveys and activities conducted by several committees since Kyoto 2019. ICOM Define encourages members and committees to review all of these documents, as well as the previous museum definition proposals, and the ICOM Code of Ethics and Statutes when considering their responses.

For each step of the consultation committee chairs will be receiving official communication from the Secretariat with instructions and deadlines for submitting their responses. Throughout the entire process, committees have the liberty to create their own procedures of consultation with their membership, to thereby fulfil each step of the methodology.