Jerome Hamlin (1881 - 1963)
President of ICOM (1946 - 1953)
which has retained its original English language acronym
for half a century, was the brainchild of an American, Chauncey
J. Hamlin, President of the Trustees of the Science Museum
This is how Hamlin remembered the circumstances in which
the adventure began: "In 1945, when I met Georges Salles,
then Director of French museums, I suggested to him that
we set up an International Council of Museums. He was immediately
enthusiastic and agreed to sign a circular inviting the
world's most eminent museologists to an international meeting
at the Louvre in November 1946. His backing helped me to
secure the support of the Director of the British Museum
Chauncey J. Hamlin, founder and first President of ICOM
was born in 1881 in Buffalo (USA). In 1912, he campaigned
for the presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt. Mobilised
during the Great War he fought at Verdun. On returning to
the U.S., he was named Vice-President of the Buffalo Society
of Natural Science and became President from 1920 to 1948.
His interest in museum activities led him to become President
of The American Museum Association from 1923 to 1929.
Throughout his lifetime Hamlin had a keen interest in music
(he was President of the Buffalo Chamber Music Society and
Director of the town's Philharmonic Society). Interestingly
and coincidentally, G.H. Rivière who was to be his first
partner/collaborator at the head of ICOM, also had a well
known passion for music and was a gifted pianist.
As President of ICOM, Hamlin devoted all his energy to building
up a solid organisation capable of fostering international
cooperation between museums world-wide. Throughout his term
of office, he made regular visits to Paris.
Hamlin's pragmatism enabled him to secure recognition from
UNESCO in the form of a cooperation agreement signed in
1947. ICOM subsequently received subsidies, opened a head
office on Avenue Kleber in Paris, and a documentation centre,
later to become the UNESCO-ICOM documentation centre. The
main task had been accomplished: ICOM was born.
Second President of ICOM 1953-1959
the General Conference that was held in Italy in 1953, Georges
Salles (France) succeeded Chauncey J. Hamlin, becoming the
second President of ICOM. In fact, Georges Salles had been
a founder member of the Organisation with Hamlin. He was
part of a small group who, at the start of the Second World
War, were convinced of the need to create and develop cooperation
between the world's museums.
Georges Salles devoted his whole life to science, museums
and humanism. Born in 1889, he was the grandson of Eiffel,
builder of the famous Tower. As a young graduate in literature
and law, he soon became involved in the world of Arts and
Letters. A collector specialised in Eastern civilisations,
he was appointed attaché at the Louvre museum, before becoming
in 1941 head curator of the Musée Guimet, the oriental museum
in Paris. He was Director of French Museums from 1945 to
In 1948 he joined Hamlin as President of the Advisory Council.
In 1953 he was elected President of ICOM for 3 years, a
period during which he pursued two goals:
- ICOM was to serve the museum institution and profession
- ICOM was to constantly adapt to the changing face of museums.
Nearly half a century later the Organisation remains faithful
to this spiritual heritage.
Also, Georges Salles was aware of the prime importance of
international contacts. His involvement in ICOM's activities
kept him in constant touch with the forty-five member countries
At ICOM's fifth General Conference in Stockholm in 1959,
Georges Salles was elected honorary member of ICOM at the
suggestion of Chauncey Hamlin who said: "For thirteen years
Georges Salles has devoted himself to furthering the interests
of ICOM. Thanks to him, we have been able to hold all our
Paris meetings at the Louvre ..." Georges Salles always
strove to maintain ICOM's high standard of professionalism
and international character.
(Extracts from the biographies written by Sid Ahmed Baghli
for the "History of ICOM").
United States of America