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A New Definition of “Museum” Sparks International Debate

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tags: museums, academia



For almost 50 years, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has defined the museum as “a nonprofit institution” that “acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment.”

But an updated version of the definition would incorporate mention of “human dignity and social justice,” references which have split the consortium’s 40,000 professionals representing 20,000 museums across ideological lines. And last week, 24 national branches of the council — including those of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada, and Russia — requested a postponement of the revision’s official vote in order to deliver a “new proposal.”

Jette Sandahl is the Danish curator who lead ICOM’s commission on the new definition, suggesting that the current one “does not speak the language of the 21st century” by ignoring demands of “cultural democracy.” 

Read entire article at Hyperallergic

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