The Art Newspaper, August 17, 2019
“What exactly is a museum? If anyone knows, it should be the International Council of Museums (Icom), with its 40,000 members representing more than 20,000 museums. But that very question is, in fact, fuelling a bitter debate within the organisation and perhaps threatening its identity. On 12 August, 24 national branches—including those of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada and Russia, along with five museums’ international committees—requested the postponement of a vote on a revised definition of museums, in order to deliver a “new proposal”.
The new definition was selected by Icom’s executive board in Paris on 22 July, but the petition issued by the 24 national committees predicts “major dissent” if the proposal, which constitutes a “considerable shift”, is adopted at its general assembly on 7 September in Kyoto.
For almost 50 years, Icom has adhered to a statement defining the museum as “a non-profit institution” that “acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.” But some people, including the Danish curator Jette Sandahl, object saying “it does not speak the language of the 21st century” and that it does not reply to current demands of “cultural democracy”.”