Advanced Search                   

What is ICOM

Governing Bodies
  Executive Council
  General Assembly
  Advisory Committee
  Working Groups


Become a member





Summary of ICOM-RTF Task Force Recommendations

(Note: This summary brings together all the final Recommendations of the Reform Task Force of ICOM, and places them before the General Assembly in Barcelona (July 2001)). Background and further expansion of these 55 Recommendations may be found by consulting the ICOM-RTF 'Tool Box Report' , providing an analysis of the whole organization and circulated to the Executive Council and Advisory Committee in May-June 2000, and subsequently available for the wider membership on the ICOM Web site at the adress http://icom.museum/rtf3.html

Concerning ICOM VALUES, the Task Force RECOMMENDS:

R1: That ICOM adopts a Values Statement for the organisation, as stated in this Report:


  1. commitment to the conservation, continuation, and communication to society of the world's natural and cultural heritage, tangible and intangible
  2. recognition of human creativity in all its manifestations, and its value to all parts of society in interpreting the past, shaping the present, and mapping the future
  3. recognition of intellectual, cultural and social diversity, and respect for difference, as forces for cross-cultural understanding and social cohesion
  4. professional development, training, mentoring, exchange of expertise and mutual assistance among networks of museum personnel
  5. professional conduct, observance and promotion of ICOM's Code of Professional Ethics
  6. encouragement and particular support for museum work and heritage initiatives that are multi-lingual, inter-disciplinary, multi-faceted, or cross-cultural; or linking disparate people, countries and regions
  7. community education and skills-diffusion as an integral part of capacity-building, contributing to sustainable development according to varying socio-cultural needs
  8. publication and dissemination of information in support of ICOM's objectives
  9. democratic values, communication, and service-orientation promoted throughout ICOM as an organisation
  10. engagement with public issues of social change, and active participation in debates on arts, culture and heritage impacting on the work of museums and museum professionals
  11. joint action with partner organisations, and projection of ICOM's work and values internationally

Concerning an ICOM MISSION statement, the Task Force RECOMMENDS:

R2: That ICOM adopts a Mission Statement for the organisation, as stated in this Report, which, if accepted, should be used as widely as possible, including in the front pages of all ICOM publications:

ICOM is the international organisation of museums and museum professionals, committed to the conservation, continuation and communication to society of the world's natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible. As a non-governmental, non-profit body, ICOM establishes professional and ethical standards for museum activities, promoting training, advancing knowledge, addressing issues, and raising public cultural awareness through global networks and co-operation.


R3: That clarification and improved understanding of ICOM's key purposes, values, expertise and operational capacities should be an organisational objective guiding the publication, reporting and use of ICOM's core documents.

R4: That it be recognised that many improvements in ICOM's functioning, towards greater flexibility and efficiency throughout the organisation, are possible under the present organisational rules and Statutes, and organisational change can proceed immediately, even with minimal statutory change.

R5: That a co-ordinated effort should be undertaken to achieve simplification and reorganisation of the ICOM Statutes (which needs to be carried through in 2001-2004, for ratification at the General Assembly in Seoul).

R6: That the Model Rules and Code of Professional Ethics documents should similarly be recast, republished and reported on in ICOM News and elsewhere, to provide more accessible information about their contents and recurrent usefulness in the life of ICOM.

Concerning (V) MEMBERSHIP, the Task Force RECOMMENDS:

R7: [Regarding promotion of ICOM's existence and value] That National Committees be encouraged to increase and disseminate knowledge of enriching benefits available to ICOM members within each country - for the benefit of members at an intra-national level - in partnership with ongoing efforts to enrich the benefits and services accessible internationally through ICOM's existence and operations.

R8: [Regarding membership benefits] That the ICOM Secretariat investigate new types of benefits being offered to professional museum personnel through some museums or national museum associations that have offered increased services available as part of appropriately negotiated sponsorship or entrepreneurial arrangements.

R9: [Regarding Institutional Membership] That expertise networks, knowledge exchange, publications and international enrichment should be more actively projected to institutions as important resources offered - in a variety of ways - by ICOM in exchange for their institutional membership.

R10: [Regarding Institutional Membership] That a more graduated series of subscription-levels (at least three, rather than the present two) be implemented to enable Institutional Membership to be expanded, at a much lower level of financial cost for developing countries than has been the case to date.

R11: [Regarding Honorary Membership] That in future any recommendations under this category (giving appropriate details and background on a candidate) should require the endorsement of ICOM members from within at least three National Committees, to ensure that such recognition is geared to outstanding service on an international basis, rather than within one country alone.

R12: [Regarding ethical issues that arise through granting ICOM membership] That more explicit action and statements be implemented to protect ICOM's professional identity and ethical integrity, in view of the increasing potential for mis-use of ICOM association in the design of commercial Web sites, or explicitly commercial promotion of museum-related services and products. (For example, statements that openly welcome certain entrepreneurial partnerships and beneficial collaborations in the cause of museums on the one hand, should also state that "you may not use ICOM's identity (logo) or status for the advertising of commercial services or products outside this relationship" on the other hand.) [This has already been included by the Ethics Committee in the 2001 proposed revisions to the Code of Professional Ethics.]

R13: That, in order to target young professionals early in their careers, a new category of Student Membership of ICOM be introduced (non-voting, and non-office holding), at the discretion of the National Committees and based on recommended criteria, the details of which are to be investigated by an Ad Hoc Committee.

R14: That ICOM encourages implementation, where possible in the programs and activities of its Committees, of a reduced-price "Student Registration" fee for meetings, workshops and conferences.

Concerning (VI) COMMUNICATIONS, the Task Force RECOMMENDS:

R15: That where barriers to good communication exist within ICOM organisationally, they should be overcome by determined effort to achieve simpler explanatory tools, reportage, information exchange and (where possible) increased communication and feedback.

R16: That improved communications (especially taking advantage of electronic communications where possible) should be a priority in raising awareness of ICOM benefits offered to members, as well as helping Membership Services and other staff to deliver benefits and services more perceptibly, broadly and flexibly. An improved ICOM members data-base on-line is envisaged as an important component of this Recommendation, and referred to in the proposed ACTION PLAN for the next triennium - PART C of this Report.

R17: That improved communication to members of ICOM's programs and events should be pursued to increase members' sense that they have been informed, and where possible invited to participate, in planned activities by ICOM committees in areas of professional museum work in which they are interested.

R18: That a comprehensive communications strategy be pursued by ICOM, more fully incorporating the potential (and responsibilities) of electronic communications to advance the following objectives: to co-ordinate and diffuse knowledge OF and ABOUT ICOM, WITHIN and OUTSIDE of ICOM, both FOR ICOM and THE BROADER COMMUNITY.

R19: That, in consequence of (R18), an improved, whole-of-organisation Communications Policy should be developed for ICOM. This policy should take special cognisance of the changed orientation required by a proactive usage of electronic communications. It should also establish protocols for up-dating and currency of information for the organisation, both at Secretariat level and including ICOM Committees', Regional Organizations', or Affiliated Organizations' use of hot-linked, informational sites connected to the main ICOM Web site.

R20: That ICOM produce a comprehensive and strategic overview of its print publications, and desired options for the future, including a differentiated brief (incorporating purpose, target audience and costs-analysis) for each of its main recurrent publications. (Relationship to partner publications (such as those of UNESCO and other bodies) should be analysed, and possibilities of joint-venturing commercially, or co-publication with museums and peer organisations, should be explored in this strategic overview of ICOM's publications.)

Concerning (VII) the ADVISORY COMMITTEE, the Task Force RECOMMENDS:

R21: That the Advisory Committee should be repositioned as a principal "brainstorming" and "think-tank" channel in ICOM's formal parts and functioning.

R22: That a re-focused, more proactive description of the Advisory Committee's role and expertise should be translated throughout the organisation's parts and reflected in ICOM'S Communications Policy and actions [as stated under (VI) COMMUNICATIONS in these Recommendations].

R23: That a livelier, reanimated, role for the Advisory Committee (as envisaged in (R21) ) should also be better linked to the work of the Executive Council, avoiding uneconomical duplication of efforts, or confusing overlap of their respective principal tasks.

R24: That the Advisory Committee be used more actively as a continuous resource of expertise for ICOM's good functioning throughout a whole triennium, not simply when the Advisory Committee is formally convened in its regular annual Sessions. In support of this Recommendation it is suggested that the Advisory Committee should compose, for each triennium, its own Standing Committee on ICOM Programs and Activities, convened by the Chairperson of ICOM's Advisory Committee (or alternative nominee, if preferred, in which case the Advisory Chairperson should at least be a member).

Concerning (VIII) the EXECUTIVE COUNCIL, the Task Force RECOMMENDS:

R25: That the Executive Council's role and core tasks be more clearly defined, stressing its overarching responsibilities for central issues of governance, upholding of professional values, ethical standards, organisational leadership and attention to the long-term future of ICOM. [ See seven (7) suggested core tasks for the Council, as set out in the full 'Tool Box Report', section (VIII) THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL]

R26: That a re-focused, more proactive description of the Executive Council's commitment to the comprehensive mission of ICOM should be translated throughout the organisation's parts and reflected in ICOM'S Communications Policy and actions [as stated under (VI) COMMUNICATIONS in the full 'Tool Box Report'].

R27: That the Executive Council should, in joint consideration of a better functioning Advisory Committee, be freed from overlapping or crossed-purpose tasks better carried out differently, or even carried out better within other parts of the organisation.

R28: That the size of the Executive Council be formally increased from ten (10) to sixteen (16) members; that the slate of candidates for election of the Executive Council - as determined by vote at an Advisory Committee meeting prior to the General Assembly - be increased from twenty-three (23) candidates to thirty (30) candidates; and that the quorum for an Executive Council meeting be increased proportionally from seven (7) to ten (10) members.

R29: That the Executive Council authorize an in-depth review of the election process for election of Council currently - ideally sourcing expertise primarily from within the Advisory Committee, but also taking guidance from the Secretariat and relevant staff on implementation of the election process currently.

R30: That a broadly representative and able slate of Executive Council candidates for election at the General Assembly should encompass a good balance of experience and cultural viewpoints, and that the slate of candidates determined by the Advisory Committee should be arrived at with an active concern to secure appropriate skills and backgrounds for effective governance of ICOM. (It is important to connect this Recommendation to (R23) in section (VII) concerning the ADVISORY COMMITTEE, and especially to note the Comments that follow (R25) in the full 'Tool Box Report', concerning Executive Council core tasks and appropriate skills.)

R31: That the Executive Council should establish a structural profile and positions description of the whole Council, incorporating both officer positions and ordinary members, and outline the expertise required on Council for ICOM to be both well governed and able to take a leadership position on museums and cultural heritage issues, and to ensure that ICOM's policies, programs, and strategic development proposals are implemented.

R32: That on the basis of the structural profile and definition of the Executive Council's required expertise for governance and leadership of ICOM (R31), the Council should empower the Advisory Committee to establish a pilot Nominations Committee and process for the period 2001-2004 - independent of any present member of Council's involvement - to explore ways in which an enlarged slate of 30 able candidates is better prepared for election of a well capacitated Executive Council at ICOM's General Assembly in 2004. If this pilot process proves successful, it could be recommended for use as a regular instrument in ICOM in the future. In the course of its work, this same pilot committee should conduct and in-depth review of the electoral process in ICOM.

R33: That, in order to prevent any conflict of interest, no person who has served on the Advisory Council's pilot Nominations Committee within the forthcoming triennium may be eligible to be nominated personally for consideration as part of the slate of 30 candidates that goes forward to the General Assembly in Seoul, 2004.

R34: That the Nominations Committee will accept nominations from any eligible person, and not itself determine whom the Advisory Committee finally chooses as its preferred slate of candidates to go forward to the General Assembly for elections to occur; however the Nominations Committee should report and comment (without mention of any specific individuals) on the desirable balance of nominees to be achieved when the Advisory Committee chooses its slate of candidates for the Assembly's electoral ballot to occur.

R35: That the Executive Council, in tandem with the processes recommended for the Advisory Committee's improved functioning (in (R24) and attached 'Tool Box Report' Comments), should review its own operations and styles of meeting, reporting and communicating to other parts of ICOM: to achieve rationalisation of roles, avoidance of overlap, and greater effectiveness in accomplishing the Council's key tasks on behalf of ICOM.


R36: That the National Committees should be much more than a netting and vetting system to harvest ICOM memberships. Rather, they should be a means of sourcing and interconnecting expertise locally and globally, and be more actively utilised to assist projection of inter-national issues for museums intra-nationally, and through these same networks to help brief local and national governments on issues of global concern to museums. [See further, (R7) under (V) MEMBERSHIP in this Report.]

R37: That ICOM subscriptions levied through the National Committees, at present differentiated by a two-tier system of costs and based on World Bank/GDP statistics, should be further differentiated by a third tier, to accommodate more equitably those countries that fall between the discriminations of "developed" and "developing" nations as currently identified.

R38: That steps be undertaken through continual updating of comparative data, to ensure that the financial burdens of ICOM subscription-rates carried by members in developing nations, as a result of internal inflation and international currency fluctuations, do not cause them to be carrying disproportionately increased subscription costs in comparison with developed nations.

R39: That a recent decision of the Executive Council (95th Session, Madrid, Dec.1999) be publicised directly to the National Committee boards and members: that ICOM now waives restrictions on the subscription surcharges that National Committees can request of members (removing the former ceiling of 10% on such surcharges). This permits decisions about additional costs of providing appropriate services within countries to be a matter for local decision, by the National Committees themselves through their executive boards.

R40: That ICOM reaffirms that while the National Committees need to retain a clear ICOM identity, they should seek to work as productively as possible with national museums associations where they exist in many countries, to establish beneficial partnerships and avoid unnecessary duplication of activities.

R41: That a task force on National Committees, national subscription levels, membership servicing costs, relationships with national museums associations, and related matters for ICOM NC members be established through the Advisory Committee, and composed predominantly from within the National Committees (but also including some representation from the International Committees, Regional Organisations and Executive Council, to ensure cross-functional awareness). Its brief would be to investigate and report back to ICOM on comparative data across different national contexts, engage the advice of the Secretariat on membership and NC matters, and explore a three-part potential for the role of National Committees:
(a) to assist museums development within countries by ensuring that museums personnel have access to ICOM's international networks of expertise;
(b) to ensure that issues of international importance on museums and cultural heritage can be projected through networks within countries and appropriate advice be conveyed to local and national governments; and
(c) to establish comparative international data on changes in museums' national funding and resourcing, and guidelines for co-operation with national museum associations, where they exist - and where no national associations of museums exist already, to promote their establishment.


R42: That ICOM members should have the right to join only ONE International Committee as a full member - with the right to vote and hold office in that Committee - and that the provision for membership of two other Committees on a non-voting basis (following the resolution of the Executive Council at its 73rd session in June 1991) should be rescinded.

R43: That all International Committees should meanwhile take steps to provide basic information about their programs, activities, and publications available, through simple means (for example, electronically) to any member or part of ICOM interested, and at minimal cost or burden to the Committee administratively. In connection with this Recommendation, it is understood that additional charges may need to be imposed on non-members of any Committee to receive publications or other services tailored principally for members - however Committees are encouraged to distribute knowledge and results of their activities as broadly as possible to other parts of ICOM, on a cost-recovery basis.

It is further RECOMMENDED, therefore, as an affirmative direction for ICOM:
R44: That while recognising that all International Committees must give priority to their core membership in order to function well, any opportunities to permit members from other parts of ICOM to experience and constructively participate in activities and meetings of any International Committee (on whatever administratively regulated basis the IC finds necessary), should be encouraged. This would be helpful in the cause of building up cross-specialist relationships and enriched professional knowledge of issues affecting museums and cultural heritage work today in all parts of the profession embraced by ICOM.

R45: That a task force on International Committees be established, predominantly from within the Advisory Committee (with some small representation from the Executive Council), and predominantly from the International Committee Chairpersons (but also including National Committee and Affiliated Organization representation) to examine the International Committees in ICOM. The brief would be to examine the workings of the International Committees on a comparative basis - their programs, organisational difficulties and needs - as well as reviewing their optimum size and possibilities of more productive connections being made between them (and to the National Committees' work within particular countries). The approach to these issues should be exploratory, not coercive, but seeking to come up with some helpful analysis and recommendations concerning the International Committees in an organisational overview, reporting back to the AC and EC.

Recommended basis of decision-making on any proposals to form new ICs
R46: That the Executive Council should assess any proposal to form a new International Committee of ICOM on the basis of the following criteria: clearly defined professional need from within the museums community for interaction and mutual assistance through ICOM, and ICOM's organisational capacities and resources to facilitate such interaction, interconnecting it to ICOM's structures while maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of the whole organisation. Each new International Committee should be reviewed after a 3-year trial period, and all International Committees should be similarly reviewed on a regular basis.


R47: That a task force on regional activities and responsibilities of ICOM should be established through the Advisory Committee, and composed through representation drawn from the Executive Council (selectively), the Regional Organizations, National and International Committees, and Affiliated Organizations of ICOM, incorporating persons with appropriate expertise in ICOM's regional activities, needs and potential. The task force's brief should refer to the comments offered in the whole section on Regional Organisations in the RTF 'Tool Box Report', and it should gather further data and bring forward proposals to the Advisory Committee and Executive Council that will help shape ICOM's future priorities in terms of regional programs and activities.


R48: That up-to-date information and a clearer picture of the potential and roles of Affiliated Organizations in relation to other parts of ICOM need to be achieved. In view of two broad groupings within these Organizations, it is Recommended that they be considered by the proposed task forces concerned (a) with International Committees [see (R45) and attached 'Comment' in the main text], and (b) with Regional Organizations [see (R47) and attached 'Comments' in the main text].


R49: That a Standing Committee on ICOM Finances and Resources be established, as more appropriate to today's challenges of ICOM's size and managerial complexity - rather than simply relying on a single honorary Treasurer from within the ranks of the Executive Council to carry out all supervision of ICOM's finances, in dialogue with the Secretary-General and on behalf of the Executive Council. Such a new Committee, with a fixed life and renewable mandate triennially, would function in a parallel manner to the Ethics Committee. It would pursue certain objectives on behalf of ICOM's financial, human and technical resources as a whole, rather than within a single fiscal year. It would automatically include the Treasurer, President, and Secretary-General of ICOM, but have a composition that reached for expertise beyond the Executive Council itself, incorporating membership skills through the Advisory Committee, and from within the wider ranks and most appropriate experiences to be found within ICOM as a whole.

R50: That ICOM explore ways of differentiating some of its funding allocations on a more prioritised basis, to assist new developments and increased capacities within the organisation as a whole, according to its programs, activities and principal objectives (as developed in action plans) within a given triennium.


R51: That the following measure be adopted, affecting the Executive Council and Secretary-General's position, to promote a stronger 'executive body' within Council to assist decision-making and governance in between full meetings of the Council (usually twice per year): restoration of a "Bureau" of the Executive Council, comprising the Officer positions within the Council, the Chairperson of the Advisory Committee and the Secretary-General (ex officio).

R52: That a Standing Committee on ICOM Legal Affairs and Properties be established, to ensure attention and oversight of the increasingly complex legal matters arising through both governance responsibilities of ICOM itself and the broader environment of issues affecting museum professionals and the cultural heritage sector today. Such a new Committee, with a fixed life and renewable mandate triennially, would function in a parallel manner to the Ethics Committee, and (proposed) Finance and Resources Committee of ICOM [see (R49)]. The Committee would pursue certain objectives on behalf of ICOM concerning legal and property interests (especially intellectual property interests) as a whole, and pay attention to significant legal issues arising internationally as they affect museums, enabling ICOM both to be better informed on these issues, act wisely itself in legal respects, and in certain cases take a strong public position on siginificant legal issues affecting museums in their co-operative care of cultural heritage. The Committee would include Executive Council representation but also have a composition that reached for expertise beyond the EC itself, incorporating membership skills through the Advisory Committee, and from within the wider ranks and most appropriate experiences to be found within ICOM as a whole.

R53: That in revising the format and contents of the Statutes of ICOM, as proposed in (R5), attention should be given to achieving the following changes, to improve ICOM's functioning:

  1. a simplified constitutional framework that sets out ICOM's principal mission, values, and reasons for existence, followed by a clear organisational structure that legally capacitates ICOM to accomplish its main purposes;
  2. more flexible and co-ordinated provisions for legislative, governance, policy-developing and decision-making capabilities through the EC and AC instruments of ICOM; these capabilities need to be freed up and more clearly distinguished from - though ultimately tied back into - the constitutional framework that secures ICOM's legal and formal existence;
  3. an operational momentum designed to permit ongoing decision-making regulated by annual plenary review, and triennial Assembly consideration of ICOM's progress as an organisation.

Concerning (XV) ETHICAL ISSUES, the Task Force RECOMMENDS:

R54: That the Ethics Committee of ICOM, having taken note of the observations made in section (XV) ETHICAL ISSUES of the Task Force's 'Tool Box' Report, and having reflected changes in the museum profession in its revision of the ICOM Code of Professional Ethics (put to the General Assembly in Barcelona), should carry forward this awareness in a simpler reorganization and re-publishing of the Code, in the 2001-2004 triennium. ICOM should meanwhile take active steps to promote public awareness of the Code and the Ethics Committee's work more broadly.


R55: That in view of what has been achieved and presented here, the general work of the Task Force (ICOM-RTF) should be reviewed. If approved in general, it is recommended that the Assembly and incoming Executive Council empower a small task force (again drawing membership from the EC and AC) to shift the focus from 'reform' to 'organisational development' of ICOM, and the further examination and implementation of reform Recommendations advanced here. The task force for the 2001-2004 triennium should be reconstituted (with some new membership, but also some continuity from the outgoing RTF). The new body would be called the 'ICOM Development Task Force' and be known in brief as 'ICOM-DTF'. It should carry forward the cross-functional work of taking advice widely and providing planning for a more actively working ICOM, in close co-operation and dialogue with the Executive Council and the Advisory Committee, bringing a Report of its work and recommendations once more to the General Assembly (in Seoul, 2001).

Bernice Murphy
Chairperson, ICOM Reform Task Force

Updated: 11 July 2005