Author: Christiana Kazakou, ICOM UK
Date: 31st August 2022
In August 2022, 2000 members of the International Council of Museums from five continents and 142 countries gathered in Prague to discuss ‘The Power of Museums’ and share global perspectives on museums and civil society, sustainability and resilience, vision and leadership, delivery, and new technologies. With a robust program that included events like a fair showcasing some of the latest tech innovations in museum practices, meetings with the international committee network, working groups, museum guided tours and cultural excursions. Running as a hybrid conference for the first time, it created a national, regional and international platform for cross-cultural interaction, intercultural communication, global collaboration, and exchange of innovative practices.
The conference began with a series of talks about the role of cultural institutions in our local communities, democratic battles for human rights in the name of fair advancement of civil society, and ways to enable museums to act as agents of social change. With examples from Latin America, Ukraine, Poland, and Cambodia, the speakers critically debated capitalism, museum frameworks, and advocated investing in young people’s creativity, inclusivity, cultural geography, and collective memory, as well as creating thought-provoking spaces.
Hilda Flavia, a Ugandian climate and environmental rights activist, gave a moving and emotional talk about the role of museums in climate change education and young people’s imagination in empowering and co-creating new scenarios for transformative change. Dr. Mordecai Ogada, a Kenyan carnivore ecologist and conservation scholar, challenged the foundations of Western science as well as ‘African Studies’ statements made by several academic institutions, stating that we must first unlearn in order to learn and rely on indigenous people and living interpretations.
Disruption is emerging as a key factor in museum leadership, including the integration of physical and digital, the need for new models, and increased engagement with museums’ social role. Due to global lockdowns, the use of digital instruments has accelerated, and museums have turned to digital tools to maintain contact and engage with the public online. Professor Sarah Kenderline delivered an enchanting talk on Computational Museology: Futures for Digitally Engaged Museums, while Sarah Brin, Business Development Manager at Media Molecule (Sony PlayStaion), claims that we can’t leave technology discourse to industry alone.
In his inspirational keynote Sebastien Robert Chan, CEO of ACMI in Australia provided historical context and best practices from the distant past, the present and a possible future. Over the last 18 months he is running a course for art institution CEOs on enhancing digital capability and digital imagination. What institutions might need in order to support creative practices of the future and audiences of the future?
How might we shift our focus from information and data technologies to world building, narrative, emotion, and imagination? These are critical questions that most cultural institutions have to address whilst Lath Carlson, Executive director of Museum of Future in Dubai, takes us on a journey into the future beyond 2071. The museum recently opened as a global destination where visitors from all over the world can see and experience possible futures through immersion and experiences that stimulate the senses.
Proposal of Museum Definition & engagement with the International Committees
The International Committees thinktanks and members advanced knowledge throughout the conference by sharing their areas of expertise through talks, meetings, and exchanges. I engaged with the following committees AVICOM: Audiovisual, New Technologies and Social Media, CECA: Education and Cultural Action, CIMUSET: Science and Technology, ICAMPT: Architecture and Museum Techniques, ICEE: Exhibition Exchange. During the committee meetings & conferences, topics such as sustainable communities and smart cities, science capital: exploring the potentials and challenges for science museums to foster equity and justice, VR education, and digital media for presentation, implementation, were discussed.
On August 24th the selected new museum definition proposal voted by the Advisory Council with 126 participating ICOM Committees around the world was presented at the Extraordinary General Assembly.
The new united definition, reads as follows:
“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.
Guided tours, museums at night & cultural visits
During my visit and participation in the conference, I attended the Illusion Art Museum, The Museum of Senses, The Museum of Cubism, The Museum of Decorative Arts, Kustanhalle Prague, DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, CAMP Center for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning, National Gallery, National Museum, National Technical Museum, and National Museum of Agriculture, among others.
Photo Credits: Christiana Kazakou
3D3 Centre for Doctoral Training funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK (AHRC), i-dat.org, School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Plymouth.
ICOM Conference participation funded by a bursary from ICOM UK