ICOM & UNESCO - a new recommendation for museums
ICOM is currently working closely with UNESCO to draft a recommendation to protect and promote museums and to encourage appreciation of their diversity and their vital role in society. This joint commitment to establish standards and principles that will assert the roles and responsibilities of museums and their place in society first saw light in 2012, during an international meeting of experts organised by UNESCO in collaboration with ICOM and IBRAM in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The recommendation takes as its first principle that museums share a number of missions, such as the dissemination of culture and education and working towards justice, freedom and peace. They particularly contribute to establishing a moral and intellectual solidarity among the public, and to ensuring equal access to education for all.
Considering the demographic, technological and environmental changes taking place around the world that affect societies and their relationships with nature, culture and heritage, this recommendation sets the protection and promotion of cultural and natural diversity as a major challenge of the 21st century. Museums, tasked with the role of protecting the tangible and intangible heritage of human cultures, have become increasingly popular institutions around the world, notably in the second half of the 20th century. Given that museums are spaces of cultural transmission, apprenticeship, discussion and training, they play a key role in education, social cohesion and sustainable development. Beyond their role in engaging and being accessible to the entire public, they also contribute to economic development, particularly through tourism and the cultural and creative industries. In line with the professional standards disseminated by ICOM, this recommendation will clarify the role of museums. It will also highlight the importance of their protection and promotion, allowing them to fully contribute to sustainable development and intercultural dialogue, notably by safeguarding and educating the public about cultural diversity and heritage.
An intergovernmental expert meeting devoted to consideration of the draft recommendation will be held in the UNESCO headquarters on 27 and 28 May, 2015. This meeting will conclude the recommendation project and will submit it for discussion and possible adoption at the UNESCO General Conference during its 38th session in september 2015. Since 1960, this is the only international and normative instrument that has been completely devoted to museums. This tool has been long awaited by the international museum community.