This year, the ICOM held its triennial conference in Kyoto, Japan from September 1 to 7, welcoming 4,500 delegates from 119 national and 30 international committees including ICOM Canada and its members. This resulted in the highest triennial attendance on record. Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition theme inspired a rich program of plenaries and concurrent sessions alongside meetings and study tours where delegates were offered memorable experiences and professional exchanges in the unique museums of the host country.
Plenaries reflected the evolving role of museums and their impact on global challenges, with an overall program aligned with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Topics included Curating Sustainable Futures, reconciliation, and intangible heritage. ICOM Canada was invited to present Canada’s experience with decolonization (see the article below) and on the need to develop disaster resilient museums, with the Brazil Museum fire in recent memory.
ICOM Canada and our members were well engaged in all aspects of conference and the proposed new museum definition was the topic of the week. During the last year, an ICOM Canada Board subcommittee developed a new museum definition presented to our members at the April AGM. The subcommittee encouraged members to provide additional feedback to the ICOM Museum Definition: Prospects and Potential to update the current (2007) definition. The 2007 definition is used in Canada by, for example, Canadian Heritage as reference for the Museums Assistance program, and in the Canadian Museums Association’s code of ethics. It is also used in other jurisdictions supporting common understanding for legislative frameworks.
As ICOM Canada members know, the new definition of a museum proposed by the ICOM Museum Definition: Prospects and Potential committee was highly contested and passionately debated. Many members felt the definition does not address the traditional functions of a museum and wanted less jargon without jettisoning the hard work leading to the current definition. In August, ahead of the General Assembly, ICOM Canada joined ICOM Europe, ICOM Germany, ICOM France, and many other signatories in asking for a postponement to a vote on the proposed new definition.
The proposed definition was discussed in several sessions leading up to the Extraordinary General Assembly on the final day of the conference. Most delegates agreed that the function of museums has already changed – and must continue to do so – in response to society changing. The delegates in attendance at the Extraordinary General Assembly voted to postpone the museum definition vote.
ICOM Canada has in interest in seeing ICOFOM lead on developing a new museum definition, with our hope for a result that balances the functional with the aspirational. View ICOM Canada’s letter to President Suay Aksoy requesting ICOM Canada participation on next museum definition committee here: [Link to letter]