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Activity Report 1998 - 2001
The General Secretariat
Communications and Publications Service

The main task of the Communications Service is to promote ICOM and to make its activities better known among the community of museums and other partners. The Service develops and handles communication tools, and organises the dissemination of information inside and outside the Organisation. It is, for example, responsible for ICOM News, as well as the Internet site and other means of communication. These last three years have been marked by a big change within the Service, thanks to the recruitment of an additional staff member to manage the Web site. During this three-year period, the Service was actively involved in co-ordinating and developing the ICOM campaign to stimulate awareness of the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property, especially through the production of two new tools: the Red List and the fourth volume of the series "One Hundred Missing Objects", entitled Looting in Europe.

Reorganisation of the Service

Since May 1999, significant changes have occurred within the Communication Service as a result of its restructuring. It now incorporates the former publications service, and is consequently responsible for producing ICOM News and the Study Series. It also handles the distribution of ICOM publications.

A new post was created within the Service to reinforce the presence of ICOM on the Internet and develop its on-line activities. The Service is now composed of three permanent staff members:

  • Valérie Jullien, Communications Officer
  • Saskia Brown, Editorial Assistant. She was recruited in August 1999 and is responsible, in particular, for ICOM News and the Study Series. She also organises the distribution of the publications of ICOM and its Committees.
  • Carla Bonomi was recruited in November 2000 to be in charge of Internet.

During this three-year period, several people on fixed-term contracts, as well as interns, assisted the communication team and made it possible for the Service to carry out its heavy workload.

Communications and Public Relations

Communication tools and information dissemination

The newsletter, ICOM News is the principal communication medium between the Organisation and its members. This is why special efforts were made to organise the contents of ICOM News by giving greater priority to information about the activities of the Organisation and its Committees. Thanks to ICOM News, members are also informed regularly of the discussions of the ICOM Reform Group (ICOM RTF) and other working groups of the Executive Council. Reports on the principal decisions made by the Advisory Committee and the Executive Council are also published after every meeting. Finally, ICOM News is now used to promote the International Museums Day and circulate information on the annual themes. This means that such information is now conveyed to all members of ICOM and not just the Advisory Committee, as in the past. It also ensures a wider distribution with no additional costs.

In general, the choice of articles and topics treated in ICOM is based on the particular activities and concerns of the Organisation.

Web site
ICOM has been on Internet since1995 through the intermediary of its Web site and distribution lists. Thanks to Internet, it is now easier for ICOM to communicate with its members and the general public. The site has been improved considerably during this three-year period, and it has now become a complementary and vital communication vehicle to disseminate information about ICOM. New pages have been added to the site throughout this period. Publications printed on paper have been transformed into electronic versions as that they can be consulted more easily through Internet. The ICOM Internet site also provides access to the sites of its Committees and affiliated organisations.

Electronic distribution lists
AdCom: An electronic distribution list for members of the Advisory Committee was created to facilitate the circulation of administrative documents. Members of AdCom were automatically included in the ICOM-L list, which now has over 800 members.

ICOM-L: The Communication Service has endeavoured to use the ICOM-L distribution as systematically as possible to communicate with members. It also encouraged members to use this means of communication as part of their daily routine.

Other distribution lists: In order to optimise communications, information about ICOM is circulated through other distribution lists, including, for example, the Museum Security Network, Museum-L, MuseumWeb-L, etc.

Institutional brochures and information documents:
- The "Welcome Brochure" was re-published in French and in English. The general information leaflet was also re-published after its contents were slightly amended, in accordance with the initial recommendations of the RTF Group.
- The brochure "For More Information", intended for new committee chairmen, was updated and widely circulated.
- The catalogue of publications available for sale is regularly updated and circulated through paper and electronic versions.
- A twelve-page booklet on the candidates for the new Executive Council was published in January 2000 and circulated with Number 1/2001 of ICOM News.

The Service also took over the task of designing information documents for conferences organised by the Programme Activities Service, in keeping with the graphic image of ICOM.

Relations with the press and other ICOM partners
The Communication Service uses the press to convey information about the various activities of the Organisation to professionals and the general public. A list of international journalists has been established for this purpose, and it is regularly updated or completed, according to the topic in question.

ICOM activities are accompanied by a press campaign whenever required. Press kits and press releases are produced in French and English, and sometimes in another language, and widely circulated. Each mailing is followed up by telephone calls. Target journalists are contacted personally by telephone to optimise the impact of the campaign and request interviews. Campaigns can also be carried out in the field, depending on the event to be publicised and the importance of the topic.

The results are put on file and circulated, especially to funding organisations, as they are very sensitive to "publicity" that places the projects they support in the spotlight. This press review is essential because it reflects the importance and impact of the activities of ICOM.

Press releases (and in some cases press kits) on the following topics were circulated during the period 1998-2001:

  • Looting in Europe: The Illicit Traffic of Cultural Property - 30 March 2001.
  • Saving Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan - An appeal launched by ICOMOS and ICOM - 1st March 2001.
  • <.museum> has been selected among the seven new domain names - 20 November 2000.
  • ICOM proposes a new Internet domain name for museums - 4 October 2000.
  • Museums, Heritage and Cultural Tourism - 21 May 2000.
  • Stop the looting of African archaeological objects: the Red List of ICOM - April 2000.
  • Museums for a Life of Peace and Harmony in Society: International Museums Day 2000.
  • A new International Council for African Museums, AFRICOM - 9 October 1999 (in English only).
  • A new Pan-African Organisation of Museums, AFRICOM - September 1999.
  • The Pleasures of Discovery, International Museums Day 1999.
  • Appeal of the ICBS for the protection of cultural heritage in Yugoslavia - 19 April 1999 (in English only).
  • Recommendations on the return of artworks belonging to Jews - 14 January 1999.
  • Jacques Perot, President of ICOM - October 1998.

More and more journalists from all over the world are showing interest in ICOM, and many articles have appeared in the international press. The Service also replies to questions from journalists about different subjects concerning museums and/or ICOM. The required information is retrieved and journalists are referred to members of ICOM and its Committees, who are in a position to give interviews.

Press releases and other official documents from the Secretariat are also circulated to many partners and institutions that can serve the cause of ICOM. To carry out this task, address lists are drawn up to meet the requirements of ICOM's information activities. Particular attention is paid to updating the list of museum associations and international organisations working closely with museums or ICOM.

The Communication Service participates in meetings held in France and other countries, to represent ICOM and establish future partnerships. This was the case, for example, in Stockholm in December 1998, when Valérie Jullien took part in the annual meeting of NEMO (Network of European Museums Organisations) in order promote the activities of ICOM and forge links with national museum associations in Europe.

In September 2000, Valérie Jullien also participated in the annual meeting of the Marketing and Public Relations Committee held in Tokyo. On this occasion, contacts were made with the Japanese Committee and the Director of the Association of Japanese Museums. An appointment was also set up with the Nippon Foundation. This mission made it possible to learn how the Japanese Committee and its relationship with the National Association functions, and to understand the reasons for the weak representation of Japanese professionals at ICOM (reports were written on these two missions).

Specific Communication Campaigns and Activities during the Period 1998-2001

Institutional campaigns

The General Conference in Melbourne 1998
Exhibition Stand. The General Conference is a major event in the life of ICOM. It is an opportunity for the Secretariat to make itself known among individual members. In addition to writing the Report on the three-year period, as well as the regular activities of the Conference, the Secretariat decided to heighten its visibility during the General Conference through an exhibition stand at the trade fair. The "ICOM" stand served as place to exhibit the various publications of ICOM and as a focal point where members could meet each other, obtain information and contact the staff of the Secretariat. A number of ICOM audio-visual programmes were distributed at this stand. It was also used as the launching pad for the publication History of ICOM. This first experience of having an ICOM stand at a General Conference turned out to be very positive for the image of the Secretariat. It was particularly useful for members who had a place where they could obtain more information and meet the staff of ICOM. It is hoped that this experience will be renewed during the General Conference to be held in Barcelona.

Side events. During the Conference, side events (meetings, receptions, etc) were organised to facilitate meetings between members of ICOM. The "AFRICOM" and "50th Anniversary" audio-visual programmes were circulated, as well as an information sheet on the publication History of ICOM. Finally, the manual "For More Information", specially designed for the Conference, was also distributed.

Information for the press. In order to help the Organising Committee of ICOM 1998, the Communication Service issued several press releases about the General Conference, in collaboration with the person in charge of promoting the General Conference in Australia. On-the-spot interviews and meetings with journalists were organised. Following the appointment of the new Executive Council, a press release was sent not only to the international press but also to ICOM partners (national museum associations, international organisations, etc).

AAM/ICOM - meeting in Cleveland, April 1999
With a view to reinforcing the presence and visibility of ICOM in the United States and within the American Association of Museums, the Communication Service organised a panel discussion, in collaboration with the AAM/ICOM. The panel discussion was held during the annual meeting of the AAM in Cleveland from 25 to 29 April 1999. The discussions centred on the topic "Rethinking our cultural roots: a cultural dialogue between Africa and America". This theme was in follow-up to the first Africa/Latin America meeting organised in Buenos Aires in July 1998. Peggy Loar, President of AAM/ICOM, chaired the session. The contributors were George Abungu (Kenya), Monica Garrido (Argentina) and Deborah Mack (USA). As Monica Garrido was obliged to cancel her trip at the last moment, Manus Brinkman read her contribution in her absence. The Communication Service was responsible for seeking funds and for the practical logistics of the panel. The Ford Foundation, with the backing of the AAM, financed travel and accommodation for the participants. Advantage was taken of this occasion to officially introduce the Secretary General of ICOM to all participants in the AMM annual meeting (about 4,000 people).

Support and promotion of the programme of activities

The Communication Service is involved in the co-ordination and promotion of certain activities carried out by the Programme Activities Service of the ICOM Secretariat.

AFRICOM, Constituent Assembly, Zambia, October 1999.
A large-scale public relations campaign was carried out, in collaboration with the Programme Activities Service, in preparation for the Constituent Assembly of AFRICOM in Lusaka:

  • Creation of a visual identity.
  • Design and preparation of information documents (programme, working documents, press kit and press release).
  • Preparation of information material for the African, European and North American press.
  • Travel arrangements for journalists.
  • Information material for ICOM partners, including international organisations, funding organisations, NGOs, regional organisations, embassies of foreign countries in Zambia and museum associations from all over the world. Finally, a special message was sent to the World Bank, which was organising a meeting on the financing of culture in Italy during the same period.

A detailed report on this campaign was written and sent to the Executive Board of AFRICOM. A press review was prepared and circulated to all members of the Executive Board as well as to funding organisations.

Museums, Heritage and Cultural Tourism, Peru/Bolivia, May 2000.
The Communication Service helped to promote the Conference on Cultural Tourism, which took place in Peru and Bolivia in May 2000. The Service was responsible for establishing the programme and creating the visual identity of the meeting, as well as writing the relevant press releases.

International Museum Day

Every year since 1977, an International Museum Day is celebrated around a theme set by the Advisory Committee. This special day is an occasion for museum professionals to meet the public and alert them to the challenges faced by every museum to be - according to the definition of a museum laid down by ICOM - an "institution at the service of society and its development". The Secretariat sends information kits and press releases on the selected theme to members. This theme is also discussed in ICOM News. A file with a review of the activities organised for the occasion is placed at the disposal of members of ICOM and a report published in ICOM News.

The themes of the International Museum Days from 1999 to 2001 were the following:

  • 1999: The Pleasures of Discovery
  • 2000: Museums for Peace and Harmony in Society
  • 2001: Museums: Building Community

For the 1999 Day, an information kit containing a bibliography, a press release and four articles on the experience of museums in this area was sent to members of the Advisory Committee. Some of the information was also made available on the Web site and in ICOM News. A specially designed sticker was sent to all the institutional members of ICOM to celebrate the International Museum Day.

For the 2000 Day, it was decided to extend the dissemination of information to all members of ICOM and not only to members of the Advisory Committee. A large part of No. 1/2000 of ICOM News was therefore devoted to the International Museum Day and its theme. Thanks to the newsletter, there was a wider circulation without the additional costs of a separate mailing, and it was also possible to produce more articles on the subject.

For the year 2001, the same approach has been adopted as in the year 2000, by devoting No. 1/2001 of ICOM News to the theme of the International Museum Day. The report of the previous year was also published in No. 4/1999.

Awareness campaign for the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property

The fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property has become one of the priorities of the Organisation in the last few years. ICOM has reinforced its action in this field and introduced a new instrument to improve public awareness and information. Furthermore, ICOM has taken steps to form partnerships with other organisations involved in this traffic, such as INTERPOL and the World Customs Organisation (WCO). ICOM has also extended its activities to cover the entire world, especially in Europe and Asia. It should be noted that the National Committees, which have also developed public awareness and information tools at national or regional level, are backing up the measures taken by ICOM. A good example is ICOM-Sweden, which is at the origin of an audio-visual documentary on the subject. The ICOM-UK Committee has published, in collaboration with the Museum Association, a book entitled "Stealing History: the illicit trade in cultural materials", edited by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Partnership development - Customs services and police forces: partners of museums in the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property
Museums cannot act alone in the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property. The action taken by ICOM needs to be backed by close co-operation with police forces and customs services. On Tuesday, 25 January 2000, the Secretary General of ICOM signed in Brussels a co-operative agreement with the World Customs Organisation relating to the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property. On 11 April 2000, an official co-operation agreement was also signed with INTERPOL.

The agreements with the WCO and INTERPOL are a big step forwards in the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property as this problem transcends borders. Customs officials can make a valuable contribution, within the field of competence of their national service. At the same time, closer co-operation with both heritage and the police authorities, at national and international levels, would increase the efficiency of the police. The signing of these official agreements reinforces effectively the co-operation existing between the three organisations and confirms that international customs and police authorities have become sensitive to the problem of the illicit traffic of cultural property. Joint projects are expected to be launched shortly to deal with matters such as the organisation of public awareness campaigns, training programmes for customs officials, circulation among customs and police officials all over the world of information published by ICOM on illicit traffic (for instance, the collection "One Hundred Missing Objects" or the Red List).

Object ID and COPAT: In June 1999, Valérie Jullien and Andrew Roberts (CIDOC/UK) attended a meeting in London on the development of Object ID, on the invitation of the Getty Information Institute. The purpose of this meeting was for the Getty Information Institute to inform the various Object ID partners of the change in status of this project. Created and developed by the Getty Information Institute since 1993, Object ID has now been transferred to London and is housed by COPAT (Council for the Preservation of Art Theft).

Updated: 17 June 2005