"Collecting today for tomorrow"
Museums Day on 18th May 1996, which is particularly
important this year because it coincides with our
Organisation's fiftieth anniversary, is on the theme
of "Collecting today for tomorrow".
This touches on the very raison d'Ítre of the museum,
and its essential relationship with the notion of
temporality. ICOM News would first like to record
reactions to the theme by various International Committee
chairpersons. Then, to open up the debate, we are
making a wide appeal to our readers for contributions,
which will enrich the information file we are compiling
to accompany this year's International Museums Day.
So, to begin the discussion, and to take the opportunity
to make the public more aware of the role of museums
as we reach the turn of the century, here are five
key questions of concern to all museum professionals.
Contribution by Dr. Patrick Greene, Chairperson
of the International Committee for Museums of
Science and Technology
members of CIMUSET (the International Committee for Museums
of Science and Technology) the issue of collecting presents
particular challenges. Most museums in our sector wish to
reflect both past and contemporary science and technology.
It follows that active collecting must take place within
museums, but this is not the only means of preserving material
and presenting it to the public. CIMUSET meetings that have
taken place in the recent past illustrate some of these
issues. Poland was the venue for our 1994 meeting. A country
undergoing rapid industrial change faces particular challenges,
especially when industries are acquired by new owners, often
from abroad, who may not place the same value on historic
industrial sites. Yet preservation and presentation on site
is often the most effective way of ensuring the survival
of historic material, which if removed to a museum would
be divorced from both its context and from the society of
which it is part.
Norway in 1995 we were introduced to the oil industry in
a series of visits to company headquarters, a service base
and a construction yard. The oil industry has had a profound
effect on Norway and though there has been talk of a museum
for years, it has not yet opened. Perhaps it is the daunting
size of much of the technology (the Brent Spar production
platform is a notorious example) that has held the project
back, while Stavanger's other great industry, sardine canning,
has an excellent museum. Sardines come in a more convenient
1996 CIMUSET will meet at the Museum of Science and Industry
in Manchester, England. The theme will be Presenting Science
and Technology to the Public, and one of the subjects will
be on improving access to collections. The possibilities
are vast, with, over and above exhibitions, support to centres
so that they can open up their reserve collections, and
there is also the virtual museum experience accessible through
CD-ROM and Internet.
1997 CIMUSET will meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The international
and global nature of science and technology will be very
apparent on this occasion. These characteristics influence
collecting strategies in our field in ways that are distinctly
different from other branches of the museum world. The triennial
ICOM conference in 1998 will attract CIMUSET members to
Melbourne, Australia, where we look forward to seeing Scienceworks,
a recent technology museum. We will also visit the re-created
gold-mining town of Ballarat, which will remind us that
although collections are at the heart of museums, they are
not the only way of evoking the past.
We would like to remind readers that in its collection of
Series (No. 6), ICOM's International Committee
of Museology published the proceedings of a symposium on
the theme of Collecting today for tomorrow which took place
in Leiden, The Netherlands, in October 1984. The information
file prepared by the ICOM Secretariat for International
Museums Day will contain a bibliography on the subject.