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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.