Meeting of the Follow-up Committee in Stavanger, Norway, June 1995
I. BACKGROUND AND ORGANIZATION
In April 1994, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) organized a meeting entitled "Museums, Civilisation and Development", in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, under the patronage of his Highness Crown Prince Al Hassan.
This meeting, the first gathering ever organized in the history of museology in this region, convened some 90 participants from 17 Arab- speaking countries.
The three days of in-depth workshop discussions, followed by the plenary sessions, produced a wealth of concrete results and led to the creation of a new network composed of all the Arab colleagues and representatives of ICOM National and International Committees who are deeply involved in museology pertaining to the Arab world. A base was thus established for creating exchanges and setting up new forms of partnership towards museum development in the Arab world.
A committee was appointed to ensure effective follow up to this meeting, and the ICOM Secretariat organized a meeting of this committee with the aim to draft, within the ICOM Triennial Programme a set of regional activities to be conducted by ICOM National Committees and individual members of ICOM with the support of the General Secretariat.
This meeting was held in Stavanger, Norway, in June 1995, on the occasion of ICOM's 17th General Conference.
To prepare the meeting, the ICOM Secretariat sent out invitations, along with a draft agenda (Annex I) and a document intended to facilitate the preparation of the working sessions (Annex II). Round-trip air travel and room and board was organized for all the participants, and their tickets were sent to them pre-paid. A conference room for the meetings was rented next to the site of ICOM's General Conference.
The meetings were held on 29 and 30 June 1995 with the following participants:
Sid Ahmed Baghli, Member ICOM's Executive Council
Sabah Ferdi, Chief Curator of the Sites of Tipasa
Abdel Halim Nur El Din, Secretary General, Supreme Council of Antiquities, Cairo
Widad Hamid, Curator, Folklore Center, Cairo
Elisabeth Fontan, Curator, Department of Near Eastern Antiquities, Louvre Museum, Paris
Ghazi Bisheh, Director General of Jordan Antiquities, Amman
Khair Yassine, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Jordan, Amman
Leila Badre, Curator, American University of Beirut Museum, Beirut
Guima Anag, Director, Jamahiriya Museum, Department of Antiquities, Tripoli
Ali Amahan, Inspector, Ministry of Culture, Rabat
Said Ali Said Al Farsi, Director, Natural History Museum, Muscat
Walid Sharif, Director of Cultural Property, Ministry of Culture
Mohammad Hamid Ibrahim, Curator, Ethnographic Museum, Khartoum
Habib Ben Hassan, Director of Planning and Project Implementation, Agence national de mise en valeur du patrimoine archéologique et historique, Tunis
Mohamed Nemri, Curator, Museum of Telecommunications, Tunis
United Arab Emirates:
Nassir H. Al Abboudi, Director, Department of Antiquities and Heritage
III. CONTENT OF THE MEETINGS
The discussions focused on the points set out in the preparatory document, with the following results:
1. Programme on Documentation and Computerization
a) Inventory of Collections: Computerization project: e.g. "RITSEC"
The Committee recommended the drafting of an information note on the role of the RITSEC (Regional Information Technology and Software Engineering Center in Cairo, Egypt) in harmonizing computerization and information technology methods. Egypt took the responsibility for collecting information on this matter and distributing it to participants and ICOM National Committees in the region.
b) Standardization of Inventories: Project on the "Handbook of Standards"
Algeria and Morocco took responsibility for translating the AFRICOM Programme Handbook of Standards (requires a browser with full support for HTML frames) into Arabic by October 1995.
c) Creation of databases
The Committee suggested requesting RITSEC to undertake a feasibility study for the creation of a database, in English and Arabic, on museum collections. Egypt took the responsibility for contacting RITSEC and establishing a list of existing databases.
d) Communicating by electronic mail
The Committee recommended the use of electronic mail within a system such as Internet, in view of its easy access and low cost. Each member of the group will make contacts in view of obtaining a connection to the Internet and give a progress report at the next meeting of the Committee.
The ICOM Secretariat will send the handbook on "Setting up an Internet Connection" to all the members of the group.
2. Programme for the safeguard of heritage and museums
The Committee stressed the importance of restoration for museum objects. They recommended the reactivation of the Baghdad Centre and the creation of four restoration laboratories:
1 for the region Jordan-Syria-Lebanon- Palestine- Iraq
1 for Egypt-Sudan-Libya
1 for the Gulf States
1 for the countries of the Maghreb
The representative of each country on the Committee provided information on his/her country's restoration specializations (Jordan = mosaics; Morocco = manuscripts, etc.). Egypt, in liaison with the ICOM Secretariat, will produce an information note on these restoration laboratories and their specializations, and will report on the programme for restoration centres at the next meeting of the Committee.
b) Fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property
The participants stressed the gravity of the current situation in regard to the thefts and cases of illicit traffic. The creation of an "ARABPOL" -- a police to work for the safeguard of cultural property in ports and airports -- was recommended.
The Committee also suggested the organization of a regional workshop on illicit traffic with the participation of the police, customs officers and museum professionals to define common projects on this issue. ICOM was requested to contact ICOM members in the Arab countries who could host this workshop, as well as Interpol.
3. Cooperation and exchanges
a) Regional and International Exhibitions
The Committee requested the strengthening of cooperation between the Arab countries, and suggested the organization of a travelling exhibition in their countries, with objects selected by each museum according to a specific theme: e.g. religions, agriculture, etc.
An exhibition on Arabian horses, and another on popular traditions in the Arab world were also envisaged.
A preparatory exhibition committee was created with Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, to work in collaboration with the ICOM Secretariat.
b) Exchanges of museum professionals
The Committee encouraged the utilisation of Arab specialists and the exchange of experts in the region, as well as the publication of a directory of Arab museum professionals, along with their qualifications and specializations.
Algeria will collect the information for this publication, with the collaboration of ICOM National Committees and the ICOM Secretariat. The directory will be published by the Arab group with the assistance of the ICOM Secretariat; it should appear towards the end of 1996.
4. Museology training centres
a) Training programme for children
The participants recommended a specific action aimed at children (guided visits for school groups and children) in collaboration with the educational service of the museums and schools. Other actions to be undertaken, in collaboration with groups such as the "Friends of Museums", are: the publication and translation of works on the educational role of museums, and the publication of a brochure explaining awareness programmes and various activities.
Lebanon will be responsible for the implementation of this project, in collaboration with the other Arab states and the ICOM Secretariat.
b) Museum management
The need for training programmes in museum management was stressed, as well as a reevaluation of the administrative functions of the museums.
5. Publications and Audiovisual Productions
a) Newsletter of Arab Museums
The Committee decided to continue with the publication of this Newsletter, which they felt should be a bi-annual publication, (in Arabic, with resumés in English and French). Algeria will be in charge of this operation, in collaboration with the other Arabic-speaking countries and the ICOM Secretariat. The Committee members will provide information for the next issue, by December 1995.
b) Directory of Museums in the Arab Countries
Egypt, in collaboration with Algeria, will collect information in order to publish an updated version of this directory. Egypt will also be in charge of the publication of the re-edition.
c) Directory of Arab Museum Professionals
The Committee will create an information base of Arab museum professionals and ensure its publication and distribution throughout the Arab states.
d) Trilingual museological lexicon
The publication of a trilingual (Arabic, English, French) museological lexicon was envisaged, in collaboration with Arab experts.
e) Audio-visual documentation on museums
All members of the group were requested to provide ICOM with a list of films, cassettes and other audio-visual documents concerning museums in their countries, in view of a compilation of the lists of these resources.
IV. REGIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE ARAB COUNTRIES
In view of the importance and scope of the work of this Committee, it decided to seek the approval of ICOM International for the creation of an ICOM regional organization for the Arabic-speaking countries.
Their request was presented at ICOM's 18th General Assembly meeting in Stavanger, Norway, on 7 July 1995, which unanimously approved the creation of the ICOM-ARAB Regional Organization for the Arabic- speaking Countries.
The timing of this follow-up meeting intentionally coincided with ICOM's 17th General Conference to give the members of the Committee the opportunity to participate in the professional and administrative meetings of the Conference, and to make contacts and exchange experiences with their ICOM colleagues. This was of course a most enriching experience for them.
As a concrete result of their participation in the Conference, they were able to present their programme of activities and obtain its integration into ICOM's Triennial Programme for 1995-1998. These activities will thus be coordinated by ICOM's Sector of Programme Activities, in collaboration with ICOM International.
Inasmuch as Egypt, in the person of Professor Nur El Din, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, has proposed to organize the first meeting of the ICOM-ARAB Regional Organization from 9 to 14 December 1995, in Cairo, Egypt, the Amman Encounter Follow-up Committee could present, on that occasion, a progress report on actions undertaken.