Icom unveils new museum definition

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 31.07.2019
Updated version incorporates references to ‘human dignity and social justice’
The International Council of Museums (Icom) has proposed a new museum definition following a worldwide consultation.

The updated definition is intended to recognise how museums have radically transformed in recent years. 

It aims to retain the “unique, defining and essential unity” of museums in terms of caring for cultural heritage, while recognising the need for them to adapt their values to the challenges of the 21st century, incorporate different world views, address deep societal inequalities, and acknowledge the crises in nature. 

The new definition states: “Museums are democratising, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures. Acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they hold artefacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations and guarantee equal rights and equal access to heritage for all people. 

“Museums are not for profit. They are participatory and transparent, and work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.” 

The definition will be voted on at the organisation’s Extraordinary General Assembly in Kyoto on 7 September. 

Do you agree with Icom’s new museum definition? Vote in our poll


Sort by: Most recent - Most liked
15.08.2019, 13:24
To paraphrase Shakespeare, 'full of sound and fluffery, signifying nothing'. Deary me, what bland, patronising stuff! Has anyone ever heard of plain English? And don't they know museums have been inclusive, democratic and 'polyphonic' (just how inclusive is that as a word to the mass of people who visit museums) for decades. This is nothing new, people! Why on earth spend huge amounts of money fixing something that doesn't need fixing??

Oh, and museums, in my opinion, should NEVER be influenced and manipulated by political mores. We've been open and democratic for decades, and are safe havens for all without all of this 'social justice' pressure, which is often downright patronising. If it appears museums have any kind of political agenda then we become as untrustworthy as any politician or government. We should tell the truth as it is without an agenda. We deal in facts. By doing that we grant out audiences the right to think, ponder, engage and debate without being preachy, and what's even more frightening, manipulative.
02.08.2019, 10:28
I agree! Museums cannot be a vehicle of response to all the world's ills!!
02.08.2019, 10:22
I agree! Museums are not intended to be the all encompassing response to the world's ills!!
01.08.2019, 20:18
Ye Gods. Is there a single buzzword that 's been omitted from this totally meaningless garbage? For a start, museums can't guarantee anything if governments decide otherwise. And how many pasts and futures are there?