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1946 - to date
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Founders of ICOM

Chauncey Jerome Hamlin (1881 - 1963)
President of ICOM (1946 - 1953)

ICOM, 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 in Buffalo.
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 in London."
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.

Georges Salles (1889-1966)
Second President of ICOM 1953-1959

Following 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 1957.
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 of ICOM.
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").


ICOM Presidents
Chauncey Hamlin
United States of America
Georges Salles
Sir Philip Hendy
United Kingdom
Arthur van Schendel
Jan Jelinek
Geoffrey Lewis
United Kingdom
Alpha Oumar Konaré
Saroj Ghose
1992 - 1998
Jacques Perot
1998 - 2004
Alissandra Cummins

2004 - now

Photo Credits

Updated: 3 October 2006