The EU-LAC-MUSEUMS project engages with small, local museums and their communities. Often, the museums we are working with self-identify as "community museums", or "eco-museums". Our bi-regional research is highlighting both similarities and differences in how our museums operate, especially as regards museum governance. How these types of museums sit alongside the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Definition of a Museum is one of the core research questions being addressed by our bi-regional research.
Museum collections reflect the cultural and natural heritage of the communities from
which they have been derived. As such, they have a character beyond that of ordinary
property, which may include strong affinities with national, regional, local, ethnic,
religious or political identity. It is important therefore that museum policy is responsive
to this situation.
According to the ICOM Statutes, adopted by the 22nd General Assembly in Vienna, Austria on August 24th, 2007:
"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."
This definition is a reference in the international community.
On 25th November, 2017, the University of St Andrews held a conference bringing together researchers from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and further afield, to ponder on these questions and to inform ICOM of their conclusions.
Defining the Museum for the 21st Century
Summary from the November 2017 conference at the University of St Andrews, Scotland
This English language iteration of the ICOFOM “Defining the Museum for the 21st Century” global debate was supported by the EU-LAC-MUSEUMS project, and the Museums, Galleries and Collections Institute, School of Art History, University of St Andrews.
The one-day conference consisted of a number of papers, a round table discussion and an interactive session conducted by Lauren Bonilla-Merchev (President ICOM Costa Rica, Member of the ICOM Standing Committee on the Museum Definition; Steering Committee Member, EU-LAC-MUSEUMS project). Speakers came from the UK, Spain, France, Italy, Iran, Israel, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and the papers discussed museums in many parts of the world including Brazil, East Africa, and Chile.
The conference was opened by Professor Sally Mapstone (Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews). Keynote speakers were:Professor Sally Mapstone (Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews)
Francois Mairesse (Professor of Museology, La Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris; President of ICOFOM)
Bruno Soares (Professor of Museology, UNIRO, Brazil; Vice-President of ICOFOM)
Alberto Garlandini (Vice-President, ICOM; President, ICOM Italy)
Because this conference formed part of a suite of events strengthening EU–LAC museum relations, there was particularly strong participation of both Europe and Latin America – based speakers. The juxtaposition highlighted differences and tensions between what the speakers considered museums to be, and who they were for. On one side, a hegemonic Definition of a museum perpetuates the exportation of a European concept to the wider world. On the other, having the Definition embedded in laws helps international and national administrations (while making it harder to incorporate other ideas). To of the papers focus specifically on “Community Museums” (in Mexico, and Africa) – a particularly pertinent theme for the EU-LAC-MUSEUMS project.
The conference was followed by a Youth Award ceremony marking the partnership between MGCI, University of St Andrews and Skye Eco-museum in the EU-LAC Youth Exchange led by Jamie Brown. A voluntary contribution by the St Andrews pipe band, and a Ceildh dance ended the day’s proceedings.
Points to emerge from papers, discussions and workshops include:
“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”
What do you think are the most relevant and important contributions which museums can make to society in the coming decade?
What do you think are the strongest trends and the most serious challenges faced by your country in the coming decade?
What do you think are the strongest trends and the most serious challenges faced by museums in your country in the coming decade?
How do you think museums need to change and adapt our principles, values and working methods over the next decade to meet these challenges and enrich our contributions?
Responses ranged across a variety of critical issues facing museums in the coming decades, not least the economic crisis, Global inequalities and insecurities, migration, and climate change requiring preservation and conservation priorities.