The International Council of Museums (ICOM) is the only international organisation representing museums and museum professionals.
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E-newsletter November 2016
International Museum Day 2017

IMD 2017: Museums as tools for creating peaceful communities

Celebrated every year since 1977, International Museum Day (IMD) focuses on a socially relevant theme. In 2016, nearly 35,000 museums in 145 countries participated in the event by organising activities and special events. On 18 May, the international museum community will examine the theme "Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums".

This theme showcases the role of museums that, by working to benefit society, become hubs for promoting peaceful relationships between people. It also highlights how the acceptance of a contested history is the first step in envisioning a shared future under the banner of reconciliation. By choosing to say the unspeakable in museums, the theme of IMD 2017 looks at how to understand the incomprehensible aspects of the contested histories inherent to the human race. It also aims to show how museums display and depict traumatic memories to encourage visitors to think beyond their own individual experiences.

"Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums" encourages museums to play an active role in peacefully addressing traumatic histories through mediation and multiple points of view. We invite cultural institutions of all types around the world to join in this celebration, which will focus on the link between traumatic memories and reconciliation.

The official IMD website, which is currently in development, will include the IMD 2017 poster and web banner in multiple languages. Soon you will also be able to download a museum kit containing tools, keywords and sample activities.

We are counting on your participation to make this a festive day of sharing and open-mindedness around the world.

Contact your national committee (see the list of ICOM national committees here) or write to with any questions about the event.

EVENT - 7 & 8 December 2016
The ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, 1986-2016

The ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, 1986-2016

How universal ethics benefit natural and cultural heritage
@ Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève

In 1986, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) adopted the first Code of Ethics establishing universal principles, providing a source of shared responsibility for collections and natural and cultural heritage for museum professionals across the five continents. Abiding by the Code of Ethics for Museums became "considered a minimum standard for membership in the museum profession", making it both the model and reflection of the rules of professional conduct in the international museum community. Thirty years after its adoption, this international conference will conduct a first evaluation of the Code of Ethics and its universality. Museum professionals, specialists in natural and cultural heritage, and legal experts will discuss the principles and issues on which museum ethics are based – and how they have even inspired national and international laws – and will offer a forward-looking debate on this body of ethical and professional standards for museums that benefit society.

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Final training session of the year for ICOM-ITC in China

The seminar Collecting Objects, Telling Stories was organised by the ICOM International Training Centre for Museum Studies (ICOM-ITC) on 7-15 November 2016 in Beijing, China.

Eight museum experts and internationally renowned professors from Canada, China, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were invited to give lectures and lead discussions and group work on museum-related topics such as managing collections, conserving and restoring cultural property and managing illicit traffic risks. The schedule also included talks by Chinese experts and visits to the most famous cultural heritage sites in Beijing and the surrounding areas.

This ICOM-ITC training session was organised for ICOM members from emerging countries and the Asia-Pacific region, and counted 16 Chinese participants along with museum professionals from 16 other countries (Argentina, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, India, Iran, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and Zimbabwe).

"Museums are facing a number of challenges that we must address if we want our respective institutions to remain relevant in the near and distant future (…). The ability of museums to evolve and adapt to change has therefore become essential and will require the development of professional exchanges and continuing education activities by museum institutions. (…) Moreover, an organisation like ICOM cannot remain relevant to the museum world without empowering young museum professionals around the globe." Suay Aksoy, President of ICOM.

Photo: Rema Zeynalova

UNESCO High Level Forum on Museums in Shenzhen

The High Level Forum on Museums was established by UNESCO to bring policy makers and the global museum community together to advance the role of museums in generating social, cultural, educational and economic benefits, which is at the heart of UNESCO’s 2015 Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections, their Diversity and their Role in Society.

Its inaugural meeting was held in Shenzhen, China, from 9 to 12 November 2016. This event was co-organised by the National Commission of the People’s Republic of China to UNESCO, Shenzhen Municipality, Zhi Zhen Art Museum and the State Administration for Cultural Heritage (SACH) of China.

On this occasion, ICOM Director of Programmes and Partnerships, France Desmarais, participated in a panel dedicated to "Illicit trafficking of cultural property: the importance of documentation, inventories, authentication". ICOM Vice-President, Alberto Garlandini, was also invited to present the ICOM Code of Ethics, during a panel dedicated to “Ethical Standards of Museum Professionals”.

Other ICOM members, such as Carlos Brandao, member of ICOM's executive board and former Chair of ICOM Brazil, Dorota Folga Januszewska, Chair of ICOM Poland, Chedlia Annabi, former Chair of ICOM Arab, and Jean-Paul Koudougou, former Chair of ICOM Burkina Faso, were also present.

Museums stand at the crossroads of several social challenges today, as a source of jobs and revenue at the heart of the creative economy, fostering a sense of belonging and social cohesion, and as key drivers of international cooperation. They are on the frontline of the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property and are primary targets in times of conflict. Markus Hilgert, Director of the Ancient Near East Museum Pergamonmuseum (Germany), called for museums to "take the lead, within their communities, in creating resilient networks of cultural heritage protection.” Emily Rafferty, President Emerita, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA) gave the example of the thousands of New York citizens visiting the Met in the aftermath of 9/11 to highlight the power of museums as unifying forces able to foster a sense of belonging.

The forum was a major opportunity to help the museum community craft much needed tools to address critical issues. The Shenzhen Declaration calls on all stakeholders to enhance the role and capacities of museums in protecting cultural heritage, adopting ethical and technological standards and developing cooperation at the international level. It also encourages the full implementation of the 2015 UNESCO Recommendation and explores the possibility of a global museum report. It furthermore invites UNESCO and ICOM to explore the possibility of publishing a global museum report. The Shenzhen Declaration was drafted in collaboration with ICOM and encompasses ICOM's vision and ethical approach.

Are you a future ICOM trainer?

Over the past few years, opportunities for training programmes have grown at ICOM, with the creation of the ICOM-ITC in Beijing, as well as the training sessions that have been led by ICOM in Algeria since 2015. One of ICOM’s major challenges is now the identification of trainers within its network, according to their skills and experiences, when organising training programmes.

In this regard, ICOM has designed a short open online form for those interested in order to better identify potential trainers:

If you think you could be one of ICOM’s next trainers, do not hesitate to fill out this form! This experience will enrich and bring new goals to your professional life.

The challenges of World Heritage museums

An international UNESCO conference on 2 and 3 November at UNESCO’s Headquarters examined challenges facing the 8,000 museums worldwide that are situated in World Heritage sites, some of which, like the museums of Mosul in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, have been sacked or damaged in conflict situations.

Organised by UNESCO and the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARCWH), the event focused on the role of museums as conveyors of the shared history of sites and their duties with regard to heritage conservation. Discussions encompassed museums exhibiting artefacts found in World Heritage sites, those dedicated to education about such sites and establishments that are themselves inscribed on the World Heritage List.

ICOM President Suay Aksoy was among the international experts at the meeting, alongside Maamoun Abdulkarim, Director of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria; Dimitrios Pandermalis, Curator of the new Acropolis Museum (Greece); Azedine Beschaouch of the Institut de France, Former Minister of Culture of Tunisia; Lilia Rivero, Head Curator, National Palace (Mexico) and others.

During her speech, Ms Aksoy reaffirmed that “museums can support, even lead, the development of management plans for Sites and, most importantly, ensure the existence of risk preparedness plans and the implementation of measures to fight illicit traffic in cultural goods.”

In November 2015, UNESCO adopted a Recommendation concerning the protection and promotion of museums and collections, their diversity and their role in society, 55 years after the adoption of the only legal text on the subject, adopted in 1960. In this new recommendation, the international community recognises that museums today play a vital role in education, social cohesion and sustainable development.

Apply now for ICOM Travel Grants!

TTo enhance members participation, ICOM has implemented 3 travel grant programs.

1. Travel Grants for the Board members of National Committees to attend the annual meetings of ICOM from 7 to 9 June 2017 in Paris, France
Applicants should consult the Guidelines (see below) and complete the online form available at:

Application deadline: 14 December 2016
Communication of Results: starting 14 March 2017

2. Travel Grants for young ICOM Members (≤35) to attend the annual meetings of ICOM International Committees in 2017.
Applicants should consult the Guidelines (see below) and complete the online form available at:

Application deadline: 14 December 2016
Communication of Results: starting 14 March 2017

3. Travel Grant programme for ICOM Standing Committee members and members of the Editorial Board of Museum International.
Applicants should consult the Guidelines (see below) and complete the online form available at:

Application deadline: 25 January 2017
Communication of Results: starting 14 March 2017

The scholarships will partly cover costs for an economy class airfare and accommodation during the meetings.

ICOM News on the move

ICOM News is transitioning to a new digital format. Stay tuned for details on the launch of the new online platform in the coming months!

In the meantime, we are featuring ICOM News articles on our website, and every month here in the newsletter. November brings us to Munich, Germany, where a new museum project focusing on a complex history is helping build bridges for the future.

If you wish to get involved as a contributor now or down the line, please contact Sara Heft:

The foundation stone for the new Sudeten German Museum in Munich was laid on 16 September, 2016 by the highest officials of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Free State of Bavaria in a solemn ceremony ©Martina Lehmannová

Read our new issue of Museum International!

The latest edition of Museum International, entitled Museums, Heritage and Capacity Building, has just been published. You can access it online here ( for free with your ICOMMUNITY login and password. This free online access will expire a month from now, so be sure to take advantage of the offer while it lasts. To receive the print edition, members can take out a print subscription at a discounted rate here .

This issue of Museum International broaches the topic of professional development in the museum and heritage sector – one of ICOM’s earliest stated priorities. Authors discuss academic and professional training programmes and capacity building methods developed in several regions around the world, from Québec and Brazil, to Uganda, Australia, France and Croatia, among others.

The content reflects the ever-increasing need for trained professionals in museums worldwide.

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