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

Successful mission to Chengdu for ICOM President

ICOM President Suay Aksoy was invited to give a lecture at the Keynote Forum on Silk Road Museum and Cooperation. She presented ICOM’s main activities and future goals. One of the most important museum forums in China, the seventh edition of the Museums and Relevant Products and Technologies Exposition (MPT-EXPO) was held in Chengdu, China, from 14 to 19 September, 2016. Organised by the Chinese government and held every two years, the MPT-EXPO is the preeminent fair for museum professionals and related industries in China.

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Earthquake in Italy: ICOM’s reaction

Photos: © Foto protezione civile

In the current context of the multiplication of areas of conflicts worldwide, and the intensification of the conflict in Syria and Iraq, cultural heritage organisations have focused on protecting heritage in such dreadful situations. Yet, on 24 and 25 August, 2016, the two earthquakes in Italy and Myanmar reminded us that nature is also capable of inflicting great damage to cultural heritage. In the early hours of 24 August, 2016, a violent earthquake of a magnitude of 6.2 hit central Italy, near the town of Amatrice.

The towns of Accumoli, Amatrice, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto were reported to be among the most heavily damaged, while hundreds of people lost their lives.

As it is the case in the aftermath of major disasters, ICOM issued a statement (see below) expressing its support for Italy and its Disaster Risk Management Committee quickly put together a Museum Watch List to identify the institutions and collections located in the zones most affected.

Italy quickly implemented a damage assessment and rescue mission to safeguard the rich cultural heritage of the affected regions. As a result of this damage assessment mission, the Culture Minister declared that 293 cultural assets in the area had been damaged, of which 50 sustained serious damage – with some having even collapsed.

As a sign of the solidarity of museums for the affected populations, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini announced that on the Sunday following the catastrophe, all proceeds of the ticket sales in all of Italy’s national museums would be devoted to emergency relief in the areas affected by the earthquake. This initiative demonstrates the many ways museums contribute to their communities, including in expressing solidarity in times of crisis.

We commend the efforts of the members of ICOM in the country who have been hard at work in support of the national endeavours to salvage heritage damaged in the violent earthquake.

The natural disasters in Italy and Myanmar, occurring within hours of each other, reinforced our conviction that the world museum community must stand ready and united in favour of the protection of cultural heritage in the wake of natural and human-made disasters all over the world.


Following the 24 August earthquake in central Italy, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) wishes to express its great sorrow for the tragic loss of human lives and the destructions of entire cities, cultural heritage and museums.

While the priority, in the country’s prevailing state of shock, is to find the missing and to help the injured and homeless, ICOM is placing the expertise and network of its members at the disposal of their Italian colleagues to facilitate their work in assessing the damages and for subsequent recovery measures.

In the wake of the tragedy, Italy’s Culture Minister, Dario Franceschini, has announced that the proceed of ticket sales from visits to national museums on Sunday will go towards the victims of the natural disaster. An initiative that demonstrates the many ways museums contribute to their communities, including in expressing solidarity in times of crisis.

ICOM Milano 2016: Rediscover the full speeches of our prestigious keynote speakers in video!


Noted figures from a variety of different fields gave the six keynote speeches at the ICOM General Conference, offering surprising, visionary points of view on topics of interest to the community of museum professionals. First to take the stage was Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk, a Turkish writer and winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, has written novels including The Museum of Innocence, which resulted in the creation of a museum of the same name in Istanbul in April 2012, recognised by the European Museum of the Year Award in 2014. During his video speech on 4 July, 2016, Pamuk presented the Museum of Innocence, designed as a city museum, holder of Istanbul’s memory, and evoked his vision of the museum of the future: a museum which “gets closer to people, and shows their individuality”. Its small stories give us the keys to unlock history.

The artist Christo, famous for projects such as the Valley Curtain and the Pont Neuf Wrapped in Paris, some of the most spectacular ephemeral and monumental works of art of the 20th century, undertaken with Jeanne-Claude, then proved that art can also be experienced in urban landscapes. After a presentation of their main projects since the beginning of their career, he presented their most recent project ,“The Floating Piers”, on Lake Iseo in Italy, a work that enabled people to walk on water for two weeks. A lively discussion between Christo and the audience ensued, with questions on the nature of their art, their creative process, the freedom of their approach and more. He memorably stated, “Unlike much of contemporary art, ours is allergic to propaganda. The innocence of our art lies in the fact that it is sponsored by no one.” Or, "Why wrap? To make the details disappear and just show the structure of the building, interacting with the natural elements."

Nkandu Luo, the former Minister of Culture and current Minister of Gender and Child Development in Zambia, is engaged in issues such as women's rights and child marriage. During her speech, she declared, “museums are fundamental to promote African culture and to improve education on every level.” She then recalled several cases of African cultural goods that are now in European museums, and insisted on the need to return them to their countries of origin, to enrich the collections of African museums.

Michele De Lucchi is an Italian architect who designed buildings for museums including the Triennale di Milano, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni di Roma, the Neues Museum Berlin and the Gallerie d'Italia Piazza Scala in Milan. During his speech, he gave his own vision of his work: “combining the strength of tradition and the promise of the modern”. In the 1970s, he was a pioneer in introducing the concept of entertainment spaces and restaurants in museums, putting an end to the traditional concept of museums as keepers of collections alone. Lastly, he highlighted the importance of taking care of our environment, as “the most important museum we have is the natural landscape of our world."

David Throsby, an Australian economist specialised in cultural economics, was introduced as someone who “brings that freshness of thought that empowers communities" and “the inventor of cultural economics”. David Throsby introduced his subject with more recent issues in museum economics, highlighting the rise of private museums, and how digital collections can increase the value of museums without replacing them. For him, the value of a museum cannot be only measurable in terms of economics, as the principal characteristic of a museum is the "non use value". He then emphasised the role of social media, which have a growing influence in the way museums have to communicate, and asked museums to “provide a sustainable access to their services for new generations” in order to stay viable.

The closing panel focused on the timely topic of immigration and the social role of museums. The panel was moderated by the BBC arts, culture and entertainment journalist Brenda Emmanus. She highlighted the involvement of museums in subjects currently at the heart of societal concerns, as they continue to play their traditional role as guardians of collections. GIUSI NICOLINI, Mayor of Lampedusa and Linosa, stated: “Lampedusa is well-known for tragic stories of shipwrecks. We are hoping for the enhancement of aspects such as the value of integration and welcoming. This is why the Archaeological Museum of Lampedusa wants to demonstrate how the island always has been a bridge and a connection between continents.”

David Fleming focused on social justice in museums, including the Liverpool International Slavery Museum, the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Galerija 11/07/95 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to him, museums provide a new social communication channel and must connect with society.

Robin Hirst stated: "The people of Australia are all immigrants or descended from immigrants, except for three percent, who are Aboriginal. We have transformed our museums, looking now at the history and legacy of migration and exploring contemporary issues such as racism. We are moving from observers to participants, from narrators to characters, from immigration to cultural diversity, taking on the role of an agent of social change.”

Marlen Mouliou discussed the role of museums as a place where we curate human relationships, trace current social changes, discuss diversity and share experiences and knowledge, challenging audiences to disagree and value different approaches.

A new visual identity to gather a growing network of museum professionals

The evolution of ICOM’s logo since 1946

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, ICOM unveiled its new visual identity on 4 July, 2016. This two-year project was driven by the ICOM Executive Board and the Secretariat, in collaboration with colleagues from the ICOM network.

The 24th ICOM General Conference offered an ideal setting for the presentation of ICOM’s new visual identity. The event was organised as part of the celebrations of ICOM’s 70th anniversary, alongside the publication of the book Museums, Ethics and Cultural Heritage, edited by Bernice L. Murphy, and the opening of the “Where ICOM from” exhibition, which looked back on ICOM’s history and ahead to its future challenges.

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