Dear DEMHIST members,

Last year, ICOM launched a process to revise the current museum definition, on the understanding that it did not adequately reflect and express the complexities of the 21st century and the current responsibilities and commitments of museums, nor their challenges and visions for the future.

After active listening and collecting ideas the Standing Committee on Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials conceived a new museum definition. The ICOM Executive Board, at its 139th board meeting in Paris on 21st – 22nd July 2019, agreed on the new alternative museum definition that will be subject to a vote during the ICOM Extraordinary General Assembly in Kyoto on the 7th September.

The proposed definition is as follows:

Museums are democratising, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures. Acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they hold artefacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations and guarantee equal rights and equal access to heritage for all people.

Museums are not for profit. They are participatory and transparent, and work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.

If agreed during the Extraordinary General Assembly in Kyoto, this definition will be integrated in the ICOM Statutes.

DEMHIST vehemently disapproves the proposed new museum definition and associated itself to other national and international committees by signing a letter that was sent to the President of ICOM, Suay Aksoy, to the Chairperson of the Advisory Council, Regine Shultz and to the General Director of ICOM, Peter Keller on the 12th August inviting ICOM to postpone the ICOM Extraordinary General Assembly at least for one year. Suay Aksoy kindly forwarded that letter to the ICOM Executive Board. As time passes it is predictable that more committees will associate themselves to this invitation as well, looking for further discussion and to extend the debate on this matter.

I remind you that the current ICOM museum definition, adopted in 2007, indicates that “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” which DEMHIST states it better serves the museum professionals’ community.

Best regards.
Elsa Rodrigues
(Chair of DEMHIST)

To read the invitation, please, click here