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July 22, 2021

Museum Defintion – New report


Just launched yesterday, the “Report on the ICOM Member Feedback for a new museum definition. Independent analysis & report elaborated for the ICOM Define Committee. June 22nd2021”, appears to me as an essential document, substantive and well-conceived, with appropriate quantitative and qualitative data analysis. Certainly a report to read and to deeply reflect on what ICOM members expect from the definition of museum used by the organizatICOM-Define-Consultation-2-Results-Report-enVFion. For the first time in recent years such an exercise is answered by a signifcant number of all committees: about the half, among them especially the International ones (81%), the Regional Alliances (71%) and in the all, the European (61%) and Latin American/Caribbean ones (68%)(the North American percentage, 100%, is not really significant since we are dealing here with only 2 committees).

It is rewarding to perceive how the process of discussing and eventually adopt a new museum definition by ICOM in Prague 2022 entered in the trails of good healthy representative debate. ICOM DEFINE committee is to be congratulated and acknowledged for the fact.

To note the top terms mentioned (see charts below), as well as the list of the less mentioned ones (see tables below). Among the most mentioned, the core concepts of the current definition: Research, Conservation/Preservation, Heritage, Education/Didactic, Display/Exhibit, Non-profit, Open to Society/Public, Tangible/Intangible, Service to society, Communication, Institution, Permanent. Among the new most mentioned: Inclusive, Collection, Community/Society, Sustainability, Accessibility, Culture/Cultural, Diversity, Knowledge.

The intersection of current and possibly new terms makes complete sense and will hopefully originate a new definition, deeply anchored in the present one.

It is also worthy to note the less mentioned terms, merely residual many of them, where we will find most of the key-concepts (or just the obsessions) of the new definition proposed in Kyoto, 2019: dialogue (not critical, hélas)– 17%, trust (not for society, hélas) – 5%, transparent – 16%, understandings (not of the world, hélas) – 9%, social justice- 10%, equality (not global, hélas) – 24%, wellbeing (not planetary, hélas) – 17%. And this not referring the terms/concepts of this new definition which were not at all mentioned: inclusive, polyphonic, conflicts, challenges, equal rights, equal access, participatory, active partnership…

Does this means that ICOM members in general are not attached to maybe all of the concepts less or not mentioned? Not all, in my view. Also terms like Digital – 7%, Virtual – 2%, Decolonization – 3%, Antiracist – 2%, Agora and forum – 1% each, were only residually referred – and perhaps no one will maintain that ICOM members are not defenders of the concepts/values lying behind them. The question is to really focus on the purpose of a Museum Definition, especially in the frame of a organization like ICOM.

July, 22, 2021

Luís Raposo

Chair, ICOM Europe