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Chairperson's Report on the 64th Session of the Adviory Committee of ICOM

If I were to characterize the major issues raised during this year's Advisory Committee meeting , I would have to say that these were largely dominated by : Financial matters ( their status and the transparency of their presentation), with a subtext of the situation of the ICOM offices, and their impact on the programmes and special projects; the intellectual content of the Advisory meetings; The outcome of the ICOM 2007 race; better and more frequent communication , both with the Secretariat and amongst the members; Revisions to the ICOM Statutory documents, including the Code of Ethics , the Statutes etc; [ their restructuring, their scope, their content and their interpretation]; The restructuring of the Advisory Committee meeting to be less regulatory and more discourse and debate driven.

Members responded very positively to ICOM's initiative in developing the Red List for Iraq so swiftly; the reports of the various committee and working group and task force chairs; the activity of the Regional Organisations, and the advancement of plans for ICOM 2004.

I am delighted to report on the following results of the 64th session of the Advisory Committee:


We welcomed the presence and active participation of some 9 new members and another 4 members attending for the first time. The orientation session organized to facilitate their familiarization with ICOM's working methods was once again highly useful in breaking the ice, and I thank all members for their willingness to give their time and senior staff members too who clearly demonstrated their commitment by voluntarily giving their time to assist with this welcome.

Members paid tribute to those colleagues who had recently passed away since the last session .

Members decided to include an examination of the Status of ICOM's offices on the agenda of the Advisory Committee, notwithstanding the expected reports from both the President and the Secretary General.

The minutes of the Executive Council were reviewed and on those of the 101st session clarification was sought on the actual figure of funds received for the Musenic project. Under the 102nd session Israel asked what provisions had been made for the treatment of student members within international committees. In addition, ICOM Arab questioned what was the current status of AFRICOM in respect of ICOM, particularly as this current situation was affecting members ability to remain member of both organizations. The Secretary General and Elisabet Oloffson both offered some explanations, essentially noting that matters were proceeding slowly and AFRICOM had not so far requested affiliated status with ICOM, in addition this was a very sensitive matter.


The Secretary-General's extensive report on the activities and programmes of the organization was much appreciated, particularly on the work completed to date on initiatives relating to Iraq, the growth of the membership, the success of partnerships with both international committees and regional organizations in developing ICOM's programming in various regions. He referred to the dire circumstances of the staff in having to be split in two locations and the impact this had had on their work.


President Jacques Perot reported on the excellent relations developing with the World Federation of Friends of Museums which he observed during his recent attendance at the Buenos Aires meeting. Other equally successful meetings had also been attended and he congratulated the various presidents of ICOM regional organizations, international committees and national committees on their excellent work.

He spoke to the work of the Ethics committee particularly in the context of the rewriting of the Code of Ethics, and informed that the Executive Council had decided to extend the current committee's mandate for one more year until Seoul. He also reported on progress made with revising the ICOM statutes and expressed the Council's decision that Gary Edson be identified as the focal point for the ongoing discourse on the definition of museums.

The President also elaborated on the active role ICOM has played in the fight against illicit traffic, most specifically in terms of its rapid response to the situation in Iraq, including sending a message of solidarity to the Iraqi colleagues. He felt it critical that ICOM maintain and increase the dialogue with UNESCO on the work ICOM could do on illicit traffic, and specifically the role ICOM could play to effectively address the Iraqi museums' destruction and the looting of its' collection. He took the opportunity to urge all Member States of UNESCO to sign the Hague convention.

Jacques Perot also reported extensively on the work being done to address the dire circumstances of the secretariat, noting that the Executive Council had pledged to find a solution to this problem by June /July 2004, and would take a close look at the finances involved in buying its own accommodation or possibly moving outside of France. He is optimistic about finding a solution with the help of the City of Paris.

In response to a question raised the President assured the members that ICOM was determined to establish an Iraqi National Committee as soon as possible. The Council had also remained committed to its promises and had decided to fund a number of special projects, and most especially to meet its commitments regarding the publishing of the study series.

He thanked the Secretariat for their excellent and committed work, particularly in the cramped and unsuitable quarters in which they now worked .


UNESCO Representative, Isabelle Vinson, sympathized with the situation of the offices and spoke of her personal support for ICOM. She gave a very detailed report on UNESCO's activity with respect to Iraq, noting ICOM's importance in this principally as a result of its leadership in ethical areas. She also referred to the situation with Museum International as a voice for advances in museum policy and reported on special efforts to publish issues in various local languages.

She acknowledged the painful situation of ICOM's offices and offered her support by offering to double UNESCO's contribution to purchase copies of " Museum" for institutional members. Members were unanimous on applauding this initiative.

TREASURER's REPORT - Audited accounts ( balance sheet), 2002 and Budget 2003.

The Treasurer presented the balance sheet as at 31st December, 2002, commenting particularly on the general good progress of the organization, except for the Musedoma which she felt would require more time and more patience for museums to realize the importance of their adherence to this Top level Domain.The other negative was the high cost of rental of the new office space in the Tour Montparnasse.

On the other hand she was pleased to report on the excellent result of the sale of BNP shares, and I use that term advisedly given the subsequent debate on their actual status. Nevertheless these had served to offer some measure for comfort since they had ensured that ICOM had ended the year with a positive balance.

Minor queries arose with respect to clarification of some line items such as the Reunion des Musee support and the issue of Special Projects which were dealt with satisfactorily. Of greater importance were the questions on :

    • the lack of comparative data for previous years as requested at earlier meetings
    • discrepancies in the bottom line as noted in some figures presented
    • depreciation of all assets
    • status/type of ICOM investments
    • the lack of audited accounts, was however the principle concern.


ICOM's financial officer and accountant, assisted in clarifying many of these points.
However, members requested to be provided with more details in the form of:

  • copies of the audited statements
  • details on special projects
  • a list of ICOM investments

The meeting was reminded that a balance sheet was not adequate to allow the Adv.Comm. meet its constitutional requirements, but that audited accounts were needed in order to enable them to reach an informed decision regarding the approval of the accounts.

Finally, on presentation of the audited accounts the Advisory Committee determined that while there were some points on which they might seek further clarification, this could be done in the Finance and Resources committee meeting and they were therefore satisfied with the information provided, and were pleased to approve the accounts on a motion proposed by Intercom and seconded by Ictop, a show of hands indicated their approval by acclamation.

The presentation of the budget for 2003 in its new format with comparative data for two years revealed some significant trends.: annual increases in expenditure of approximately ? 100,000 per year and this would need to be addressed. Combined with sharp cuts in the funds proposed for Programme activities, special projects and Museum International , the former being project funded/sponsored activities which cannot be guaranteed , the latter suffering cuts due to the ?90,000 to ?100,000 expenses of moving the offices to the tour Montparnasse, ( Museum magazine having been cut altogether from the budget) this providing a disturbing picture for members to contemplate. There was also concern that no comparative data (other than baseline figures) had been provided for programme budget and actual expenditure in the previous 2 years.

Members decided to approve this budget for 2003 but with reservations. They urged that the Executive Council should:

    • revisit its previous decisions with regards to the Programme activities, Special Projects and Museum International, the latter particularly in the light of the intervention of the UNESCO representative, Isabella Vinson, who accepting the challenges ICOM now faced as a result of losing its offices in UNESCO, proposed in her intervention to double her subvention to ? 22,000.
    • Members felt that ICOM could certainly identify funds for the move of offices from within its reserve, and
    • expected that programme funds would be restored to the extent possible if savings were found on the office move or rental , and given the additional funds to be anticipated from the Dirrecion de Musees de France and the Reunion des Musees.

Members also sought reassurance that the programme budget and special projects would not be the subject of such cuts in the future. They asked that such information should in future be presented in power point format for ease of viewing. They also generally supported the suggestion of the Treasurer to have a meeting with the Treasurers of the International Committees.

Finally, it was noted that the Appointment of Auditor was an item which should in future appear on the agenda of the Advisory Committee. However, on the information provided by the Accountant, and confirmed by the Secretariat, it was noted that in accordance with French law the current auditor had been appointed for 6 years from 2001 and was thus due to be be reappointed in 2006. It was noted that the reappointment would need to be approved in Seoul in 2004.

Members decided to observe the formality of reappointing the current auditor in order to meet its statutory mandate. However, it occurs to me President that this discrepancy should also be dealt with as part of the rewriting of the statutes.

Members also felt that the issue of the ICOM Offices was of serious importance and needed to be added to the Agenda of the Advisory Committee meetings. Detailed information was supplied by both the Secretary General on the actions to find appropriate accommodations on a temporary ( one year basis) and the costs involved. The President also provided more detail on the initiatives he was taking to identify accommodations for ICOM needs in the environs of Paris, and of the negotiations to date with the City of Paris.

The Advisory Committee decided to endorse the actions of the President in his negotiations, and recommended that in the event that these were not successful , that efforts be made to identify a building ( even a commercial one/unused factory) which could be bought at attractive rates, including perhaps a mortgage loan , which would be a very attractive investment for the future of the organization, and its growth.


The formal report had been present earlier as part of the working documents of the meeting. There was no comment on this document as much of this activity was debated in the separate meetings of national and international committees.


Geoffrey Lewis reported on the recent work of the Ethics Committee. He presented the new restructured version of ICOM's Code of Ethics. This had been divided into the main museum functions to make it more user-friendly and give it the look and feel of a key document of the museum profession. Each section had two major components, stating the principles involved and the guidelines to operate under those principles. He outlined the timetable by which the committee hoped to achieve a final document for approval at Seoul.

He reiterated that the Committee was engaged in producing English and French versions simultaneously of the restructured Code of Ethics. In a strictly legal sense, the English version would be the authoritative text for purposes of interpretation.

The present document was for discussion with the Executive Council and Advisory Committee. Comments received would be incorporated for the consultation with the membership. He would be very pleased to receive comments over the next few months and by the end of October at the latest. He indicated to members those additions and changes to the text and gave the rationale for the proposed changes.

He noted increasing activity in the translation of the Code of Ethics into other languages and encouraged the countries' translating to collaborate with other national committees in the language group. Translation of the code was encouraged, particularly for teaching and promotional purposes.

Members responded enthusiastically to this text, with a lively debate on several points. Clarification was sought on a number of points, including:

  • article 6.2 and the question of restitution: this was not just a legal but an ethical issue which would be included in the the next draft.
  • The inclusion of the first protocol of the Hague Convention as this was relevent to article 6.2
  • The inclusion of a glossary for definition of technical terms and the inclusion of biliographic references
  • The need to include a reference to the source document when translating this text.
  • The need for references to the democratisation of museums in respect of the origin of the collections and reaching the public.

The Committee was challenged regarding the decision to name a single language version as the authoritative text (even in a specifically legal context noting the simultaneous adoption of 3 language versions of the Code of Ethics in 1986).

Geoffrey Lewis also reported on the cases which had been referred to the Committee .Issues addressed included:

  • A number of issues on sponsorship and co-operation with the commercial sector - these were organisational matters but emphasised the need for careful preparation of contracts.
  • Issues of sales of original artwork in galleries, where it was felt that while not acceptable to sell such work in the gallery - which might tend to validate its importance and increase its resale or tax advantage value - it might be acceptable to sell in the museum shop.
  • The case of a prominent art gallery which was exhibiting recently acquired Nok and Ife sculpture in its galleries- It was proposed to write the institution questioning the valid export of the material.
  • Evidence of complicity between government officials and art dealers in the sale of artefacts prohibited from export from the country. The Committee hasd this under review.
  • A statement made on a Russian Culture Ministry website, indicating that WWII objects of doubtful provenance which were not claimed within 18 months would be retained by the institution. This was a legal matter which, in the opinion of the Committee, would not stand international scrutiny.

The Chair of the Ethics Committee then gave a position statement on two cases reported last year:

  • Despite an agreement to return an object to an African Museum, this had not taken place. ICOM functions as a facilitator in the matter..
  • Issue of selling parts of natural history specimens. The Committee hoped to receive advice on current practice from the Natural history committee.


Gunther Dembski had been declared to be the Elections Officer, as the Chairperson was a candidate for election, and thus presented the list of 28 candidates received . The Members approved this list by acclamation and forwarded this slate to the Executive Council as this list which should be transmitted to the General Assembly for elections in 2004.


Members were pleased to receive the ICOM Red List for Iraq which had been prepared so expeditiously by the Secretariat. This was generally held to be a very impressive action and most visible achievement of the organization. Presented by Valerie Julien and Carla Bonomi, the members responded most positively to this initiative.

In addition, the Advisory Committee took note of the report provided by the representative of the Jordanian National Committee, Mr. Assem N. Barghouti, and congratulated him on their excellent initiatives which demonstrated how proactive Jordan had been in fighting the illicit traffic in Iraqi cultural heritage across its borders.


Members were pleased to welcome 3 guest speakers on the topic " Universal Museums", Prof. Dr. Peter-Klaus Schuster (Germany), Dr. Guido Gryseels ( Belgium) and Mr. George Abungu ( Kenya), who presented highly differing perspectives on the interpretation of the theme in response to a statement made by 18 museums on this matter earlier.

These presentations provoked a very lively debate amongst the members , several referring to the apparent absence of consideration of the ICOM Code of Ethics in relation to this position, and generating significant interest by members to continue the discussions.

Members were generally very positive in response to the Special Session and trusted that this would continue further, particularly given their concern for the lack of intellectual content in the generally administrative tone of the AC meetings.


The Advisory Committee received a number of reports from the Chairpersons of various Committees, Working Groups and Standing Committees, several of them being presented twice in both the separate meetings and in the plenary session. I will not review all of them although these were generally well received and supported by members .

However, while members were pleased to be kept advised of and involved in the work of the organization , reports emerging from the separate meetings indicate that they were seeking still further changes in the structure of the Advisory Committee as a whole.


National Committees approved the appointment of Ian Galloway ( Australia) as its rapporteur and he reported on the major results of their meeting. Some of the major outcomes of their discussion on the report of the National Committee Task Force indicated that:

    • issues of communication between National Committees and Regional Organisations dominated the discussions. This included video conferencing , publication possibilities, and a decentralized information exchange model.
    • Recommendations #18 and #19 regarding rationalizing and strengthening the role of the regional organizations, and #20 revising the model rules for National Committees were of particular interest.
    • Recommendation # 10 required the correction to "Information Centre".

The meeting was generally concerned about making better use of their time at the annual meetings, specifically about :

    • Building the content component of the national committee meetings, and several themes were identified for future discussion with the assistance of the Secretary General.
    • A sub-committee was formed to further progress the work and determine appropriate issues to be discussed in 2004.
    • The sub-committee was able to identify a number of recommendations for consideration at the 65th and 66th sessions of the Advisory Committee.

International Committees appointed Diane Pardue ( ICAMT) as their rapporteur. Francois Tremblay (ICEE) was identified as a Vice Chairperson as it was possible the chair could not attend the next meeting in 2004.

Following their meeting and the information provided regarding the programme the IC members decided to recommend that :

    • Online membership directory should be developed and funded as it was essential for their work in managing and servicing membership.
    • Secretariat should monitor non-voting members interests, and go back to maintaining a centralized mailing list.
    • Information should be added to the Membership form to indicate the right of appeal in the event membership was refused by a national committee, and that every ICOM member could become a member of any International Committee , although without rights, student membership should be added
    • The IC meeting approved the proposals of the Task Force on International Committees and Affiliated Organisations
    • Regarding the issue of financial management, to explore the use of internet bank accounts for the International Committees and ICOMON would provide information about how to do this.
    • The colour coded schedule of the strategic plan be updated and circulated to members
    • Discussion on Cultural Diversity should be advanced , beyond jus the Task Force initiatives
    • Summaries of EC and AC meetings to be included in ICOM News.
    • Generally satisfied with the level of preparation for ICOM 2004, but suggested the contact list be updated, and there be adequate provision of equipment for presentation of IC materials.

They too applauded the quality of the special session discussion and recommended that there should be a less regulatory agenda for the Advisory meeting and more discussion of significant topics.

Both meetings very much appreciated the information and advice on membership provided by Eloisa Zell.


Members were pleased to receive the updates to the information on the preparation of the General Conference in Seoul, and appreciated the participation of listed coordinators in the various IC meetings to inform on the arrangements made. Principal concerns still being expressed were on the issues of: visas; hotel costs; travel grants; registration fees; interpretation; location and facilities for IC information stalls; facilities for Meetings of regional organizations.


The Meeting was delighted to have received the inventive, thought-provoking and in some ways, romantic, bids made by the Austrian and the Danish/Swedish teams to host ICOM 2007. Following further presentations after last year and an examination of the comparative analysis which had been prepared, the Committee determined their choice on the basis of a secret ballot.

For the record: Ballots cast were 74, of which Austria received 46 and Denmark /Sweden 28.

I am therefore delighted to recommend to you the acceptance of Austria's bid to host ICOM 2007.


Manus Brinkman's report on the Blue Shield and ICOM's activities in this regard, was received with considerable interest. It appeared that agreement was being reached with the Prince Claus Fund to create a Heritage emergency fund , which would be managed by the Fund but the Blue Shield would participate on the board.

He reminded that there was still considerable work to be done with respect to Afghanistan, East Timor and several African States, and that emergencies were not limited to war time ravages, but occurred as a result of natural disasters as well.

Members were privileged to receive a short visual presentation by the Czech Republic on the disaster which occurred as a result of the floods in August 2002, and the efforts to recover from this. Members were informed that the worst challenge which remained was the recovery of highly significant and rare archival material which remained in frozen storage. Special conservation facilities were currently being established and it was expected that this work would last until at least 2008.

We were delighted to receive an update confirming the security of the Bagdad National Museum collections, stored in the National Bank's vault, include the Nimrud Treasure. These assurances were received with pleasure [ICTOP] .


The Advisory Committee received succinct reports on the activities of the regional organizations for the year from the representatives of the ICOM EUROPE, ICOM -ARABE, and ICOM ASPAC. In addition, the latter took the opportunity to report on the initiatives of the revived ICOM Cross Cultural Task Force , to assist ICOM with developing policy statements relating to cultural diversity issues and responses to UNESCO's new initiative on a Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity. He advanced proposals for an international symposium on "The Inclusive Museum" Yani Herreman also provided some information on the initiatives taken by ICOM LAC to date.

Members were generally very supportive of the initiatives being taken by the regional organizations. The Regional Organisations also reported on the proposal to develop intra-regional activities in the future.


Members approved the proposal of the Chair to advance the three major topics including:

    • Crimes against Culture
    • Cultural Diversity and Tolerance
    • Bridging Cultures

to the Executive Council for consideration, keeping in mind their concern with the unsatisfactory procedure currently in place for identifying such themes, without sufficient time to discuss and debate these concepts in advance of their submission.

Members felt that new procedures needed to be identified whereby they were examined and elucidated for the benefit of museums interpreting them to their audiences.

Several methods were suggested in particular that the Executive Council should advance various topics for discussion and consideration by a voluntary focus group within the Advisory which might then broaden the discussion and reach decisions based on such analysis.


Members were generally highly satisfied with the work undertaken by the staff of the Secretariat, particularly in the areas of marketing /promotions, membership, programme, and Finance, but remained most concerned about the status of the information centre and the need to revisit its structure, system and management.

Updated: 14 June 2005