A huge success for ICOM Milano 2016

The 24th ICOM General Conference gathered 3,500 museum and heritage professionals from 130 countries to discuss the theme Museums and cultural landscapes and other topical matters at its triennial conference in Milan in July. Six days of working sessions and discussions amongst ICOM’s National and International Committees, Regional Alliances and Affiliated Organisations led to important decisions on the organisation’s future and the election of a new President and Executive Board for the 2016-2019 term.

A stunning opening ceremony

The 24th General Conference of ICOM (International Council of Museums) officially opened on Monday, 4 July. This major global museum event gathers more than 3,500 museum professionals from more than 130 countries in Milan to discuss the topic «Museums and Cultural Landscapes». During the opening ceremony, HANS-MARTIN HINZ, ICOM President, spoke enthusiastically about the founding of ICOM in 1946 by a handful of passionate museum professionals, and recalled the fundamental aspirations of its founders: the promotion of standards of excellence in museums as well as international cooperation. The Minister for Cultural Assets, Activities and Tourism, DARIO FRANCESCHINI, Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, stressed: «Italy is a giant open-air museum and it is ICOM’s task to enhance it. The new Italian museum system, implemented in 2014, was given new autonomy concerning several aspects.

Museums are guardians of education and knowledge. It is not by chance that international terrorism strikes cultural places, as symbols of dialogue and cultural exchange between peoples». The Mayor of Milan, BEPPE SALA, emphasized that «culture is the strength of a territory because it is alive and it grows with people». CRISTINA CAPPELLINI, Assessor for Culture, Identity and Autonomy for the Lombardy Region, spoke about the region’s support for ICOM projects since 2011. ALBERTO GARLANDINI, Chair of ICOM Milano 2016 Organising Committee, stated: «Discussing museums means discussing the contemporary era and its challenges. The great challenge of modern museums is to have the existing cultural landscapes integrated with phenomena such as immigration and globalisation. ICOM Milano 2016 is the last step of a journey that began three years ago.» Finally, DANIELE JALLA, Chair of ICOM Italy, spoke about the huge involvement of the Italian National Committee and its regional coordinators in the organisation of the General Conference, and invited participants to consider «opening» as the keyword of this 2016 edition.

Two vibrant keynote speeches

In his video message to participants, Nobel Prize-winning author ORHAN PAMUK voiced his hopes for museums to discover a more intimate dimension, less institutionally-bound and more able to enhance people’s individuality: «The aim of current and future museums must not be to represent the state but to recreate the world of single human beings, the same human beings who anguished under tyrannical oppression for hundreds of years.» The artist duo CHRISTO AND JEANNE-CLAUDE, who recently exhibited their latest monumental work, «The Floating Piers», on Lake Iseo in Italy, showed their Land Art works, particularly focusing on their conceptual aspects. 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.»

Extraordinary plenary sessions

On Tuesday, 5 July, the architect MICHELE DE LUCCHI offered further expertise, speaking about his role as scenographer for a number of exhibitions: «Each scenography requires continuous dialogue with the museum itself […] In The Exhibitions Palace in Rome we had to come up with a modular, non-invasive system to respect the site’s architecture.» NKANDU LUO, Minister for Gender and Child Development of Zambia, the morning’s second speaker, declared: «Museum development is essential for both social and economic growth. Museums represent the soul and the cultural richness of a country. My wish is that soon we will be hosting an ICOM Conference in Africa, perhaps in Zambia.» On Wednesday 6 July, the Australian economist DAVID THROSBY, theorist of the notion of cultural capital, gave the keynote address: «Museums are economic institutions too, which must engage with pricing, assessment of collections value and their commercialisation. It is a true cultural industry, whose value can be estimated on the basis of the impact on local economies. If we want to assess the public value of art and culture we have to sum up two terms: the embodied economic value and the immaterial cultural value.»

The closing panel focused on the breaking news 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. The panelists included GIUSI NICOLINI, Mayor of Lampedusa and Linosa, DAVID FLEMING, Director of National Museums Liverpool and President of the Federation of International Human Rights Museums, ROBIN HIRST, Director, Collections, Research and Exhibitions, Museum Victoria and MARLEN MOLIOU, Lecturer Faculty of History and Archaeology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. During this session, Mrs Nicolini 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 Archeological Museum of Lampedusa wants to demonstrate how the island always has been a bridge and a connection between continents.»

Rewarding debates and presentations for our international committees, DRMC and mentoring sessions

The theme «Museums and Cultural Landscapes», cornerstone of this General Conference, was addressed and debated by all of the 30 ICOM International Committees present in Milan, in each of their respective disciplines. All of the participants were invited to attend presentations by international experts, and contribute to enrich discussions that are the fruit of several years of intensive preparation. The International Committee ICDAD, focused on applied arts and design, discussed the disappearance of advertisements from the urban landscape of Sao Paulo, allowing the city’s residents to take back this landscape. CECA, the committee for education and cultural action, opened its session with a presentation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation, as a symbolic landscape of obsessional themes of the painter and the Renaissance. DEMHIST addressed the role of historic houses in the determination of sociocultural landscapes of a place, from the Biscaye Villa in Bilbao to the Casa Martelli in Florence, over three days. ICOFOM, devoted to museology, focused on the theme of «the predatory museum», in particular highlighting the transformation of ethnological museums. Some 150 people attended the discussions and ever-popular «Exhibitions Marketplace» hosted by ICEE, the International Committee for Exhibition Exchange, which focused this year on the theme «Communicating, Connecting and Innovating with Style», inspired by the host city’s reputation as capital of fashion and design.

ICOM’s Disaster Risk Management Committee (DRMC) gathered museum-related professionals from different parts of the world that help monitor cultural heritage at risk in emergencies and stand ready to provide advice and assistance to international colleagues and their institutions upon request. The session on disaster risk reduction for museums highlighted the concept of common heritage threatened by natural and human-made disasters and gave examples of how museums can support their colleagues in need around the world.

Two mentoring sessions for young museum professionals were a big success. The four speakers, Luis Repetto Malaga, Luigi Di Corato, Yousef Khacho and Eiji Mizushima, spoke to young museum professionals about their respective professional paths. Their presentations led to lively discussion among speakers and participants, who were able to benefit from precious advice for their professional careers.

Panel discussions followed very closely

The panel discussions on the conference programme drew a high number of participants. The first one shed light on the UNESCO Recommendation for Museums and Collections, drafted in close collaboration with UNESCO, with the speakers Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Paola Marini, Director of the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, and François Mairesse, Prof. Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. Paola Marini declared, «the text of the recommendation is important in our everyday life. It keeps the soul of museums alive!» The second panel focused on illicit trafficking in cultural objects, with the participation of Eric Dorfman, Director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Markus Hilgert, Director of the Museum of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at the Pergamonmuseum and Leng Srong Chief of Section for Movable Heritage and Museums in UNESCO. They emphasized the importance of international cooperation and increased vigilance concerning object provenance, as the trafficking of antiquities represents a resource for terrorists.

Dazzling social events & high attendance for ICOM 70’s anniversary exhibition

The prestigious social events offered by the General Conference were also a big success among participants, who came out in force for the Opening Party at Castello Sforzesco with (3000) and filled the Duomo for the grand concert. A number of other events, including visits to The Last Supper and the night at the Museo nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, also drew many participants.

The exhibition Where ICOM from, presented from July 4 to 6, has retraced the evolution of ICOM over its 70 years of existence, and raised questions about its future directions. The main activities of the organization and the upcoming challenges have been addressed in stories and personal points of view from ICOM members. The event was organized by the ICOM Endowment Fund, jointly with students from University Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne.

ICOM’s new visual identity unveiled!

ICOM’s new visual identity was unveiled on 6 July 2016. This presentation concluded work undertaken in concert with the ICOM network and qualified professionals over the past two years. The logo, designed by the studio C-album, selected following an international competition, uses a stylized letter M, associated with basic fonts. This new identity is based on principles of universality and simplicity of use, vital for a diversified network animated by the actions of its volunteer members.

Elections for the term 2016-2019

Suay Aksoy (Turkey) was elected ICOM President for the term 2016-2019. Ms. Aksoy is a trustee of the History Foundation of Turkey where she previously headed up museum projects and was a long-term board member. As Director of Cultural Heritage and Museums at the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency she developed and executed capital programmes and projects for museums in Turkey. She has also been a Lecturer in Museum Studies at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University and Bogazici University. Ms. Aksoy was Chair of the ICOM Advisory Committee from 2013-2016, a former Chair of the ICOM International Committee for the Collections and Activities of Museums of Cities (CAMOC) and a member of various ICOM Standing Committees. Speaking of ICOM’s mission, she said: «This is a time to hold on to our principles: to accentuate international collaboration, to adhere firmly to our ethics codes and to work for more democracy and equality in our societies. ICOM has long defined itself with these principles and has justifiably become a reference to reckon with.» On the challenges that lie ahead, she added: «It is through art and culture that we respond to the challenges of change, that we enhance our global outlook on the planet and provide local solutions without compromising this outlook. This is the task history charges us with. Under the circumstance of change being a constant, it is of utmost importance that we contemplate the future of ICOM and museums on a continual basis. This concerns our sustainability and relevance in society as it does the development and implementation of our vision, programmes and projects. It is a challenge and an opportunity that urges us to mobilise our thinking and efforts in open debate and transparency.»

The conference also saw the election of a new Executive Board as follows:

Vice-Presidents: Laishun An (China) and Alberto Garlandini (Italy).

Newly elected Ordinary Members: Carina Jaatinen (Finland), Diana Pardue (USA), Inkyung Chang (Republic of Korea), Léontine Meijer-Van Mensch (Germany), Maria de Lourdes Monges Santos (Mexico), Terry Simioti Nyambe (Zambia), Hilda Abreu de Utermohlen (Dominican Republic), Emma Nardi (Italy), Carlos Roberto Ferreira Brandão (Brazil), Vinod Daniel (Australia), Carol Scott (UK).

In addition, Regine Schulz (Germany) was elected Chair of the Advisory Council, while Gustavo Adolfo Ortiz (Colombia) was elected Vice-Chair.

Strategic Plan for 2016-2022

Following several years in the making, ICOM’s new Strategic Plan 2016-2022, was adopted by the ICOM General Assembly. The new Plan is based on three main principles: INDEPENDENCE, INTEGRITY and PROFESSIONALISM. The new Strategic Plan reiterates ICOM’s mission and vision and details a series of actions the organisation will take to strengthen its solidarity with colleagues throughout the world, to enhance democracy, to defend the common heritage from wanton and criminal destruction, to improve its structures and operations, and to advocate for museums everywhere.


ICOM advocates for the heritage of humanity and in particular for museums and museum work with knowledge, boldness and conviction. Its members, staff and affiliates work solely for the benefit of that heritage, cultural and natural, tangible and intangible, and this quality of independence is an important protective attribute for members and staff working in troubled environments, especially those assisting with ICOM’s work on documenting illicit trade in natural and cultural goods. It is also an essential quality in the mediation process offered by ICOM in cases of contested heritage and it is in itself an important ethical stance.


ICOM conducts its business in accordance with its Code of Ethics — its most influential and lasting contribution to museum professionalism. It requires that museums and museum professionals adopt it in their practice if they are or wish to become members of ICOM. The Code is kept under constant review.


Through the work of its National and International Committees, its Code of Ethics, through professional development, publications, annual conferences, and through alliances with similar organisations, ICOM supports museum professionalism in all its aspects and recognises the growing practical scope of that professionalism.

The objectives of the new ICOM Strategic Plan are intended to meet the needs of the members, to enhance the work and value of museums, to strengthen ICOM’s role as an international key player in the museum world, to raise ICOM’s visibility and to audit ICOM’s needs in terms of staff and resources.

ICOM Resolutions and Statutes

Members were asked to vote on several resolutions that were presented at the ICOM General Assembly, which took place on 9 July. All four resolutions presented, and summarised as follows, were approved: the responsibility of museums towards landscape as an essential element of humanity’s physical, natural, social and symbolic environment (Carta di Milano); inclusion, intersectionality and gender mainstreaming in museums; strengthening the protection of cultural heritage during and after armed conflict, acts of terrorism, revolutions and civil strife; the promotion and protection of cultural objects on international loan. The amendments proposed to the existing ICOM Statutes were addressed at an Extraordinary General Assembly, during which members voted in favor of the revised Statutes.

Closing Ceremony Handover: ICOM Kyoto 2019

The Closing Ceremony, which took place at the Triennale di Milano on the evening of 9 July, was attended by the newly elected ICOM President, Ms Suay Aksoy; the Vice Mayor of Kyoto City, Mr. Hiroyuki Fujita; Cultural Assessor of the City of Milan, Filippo Del Corno; Chair of ICOM Japan, Mr Tamotsu Aoki; ICOM President (2010-2016), Hans-Martin Hinz; newly elected Vice-president of ICOM, Alberto Garlandini; Chairperson of ICOM Italy, Daniele Jalla; and ICOM Director General, Anne-Catherine Robert-Hauglustaine.

During the ceremony, in keeping with the ICOM General Conference tradition, the flag was handed over to the organisers of the next ICOM General Conference, to be held in Kyoto, Japan in September 2019.

The theme of the conference will be Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition.

Training programme in Algeria

A heritage management training programme in Algeria was launched by ICOM in 2014, in partnership with the European Union as part of the Support Programme for the Protection and Promotion of Cultural Heritage in Algeria. ICOM staff is providing more than 250 days of training between December 2015 and February 2017, in areas such as collections inventory, collections management, exhibitions, safety and security, preservation and restoration, education, and cultural mediation.

The sessions on exhibitions have been held in the Algerian capital of Algiers at the Musée du Bardo, from 10 to 28 July. It addressed the organisation of temporary exhibitions; loan procedures; and scenography.


The Best in Heritage Conference, which will take place in Dubrovnik, Croatia, 22 – 24 September 2016, in partnership with EUROPA NOSTRA and with the support of the Creative Europe programme and ICOM Endowment Fund of ICOM. This edition is dedicated to the memory of Kenneth Hudson, OBE and Georges Henri Rivière.

The Best in Heritage is an international annual survey of award-winning museum, heritage and conservation projects. More than twenty projects from around the world that had been proclaimed the best the previous year at a national or international level, are invited to the conference to present their success stories. In brief, we display and celebrate excellence in the field of museums and heritage. The conference is taking place at the end of September in Dubrovnik, UNESCO World heritage site, each year.

More info at: http://www.thebestinheritage.com/


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