News & events > ICOM's Conference postpones the vote on a new museum definition
08 Sep 2019

ICOM's Conference postpones the vote on a new museum definition

Meeting in Kyoto last Saturday, 7 September, the Extraordinary General Assembly of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) decided to postpone the vote on the new museum definition. The decision gathered 70,41% votes in favour. The decision follows last July's announcement of a new proposed definition, which generated extended debate and the opposition of several committees within ICOM. Following the General Assembly's decision, ICOM President Suay Aksoy stated that "This has been one of the most democratic processes in the history of ICOM. The discussion continues, and the Standing Committee on Museum Definition, Prospects and Potential (MDPP) will continue its work by interacting with all the National and International Committees, to talk about the implementation and assimilation of these new ideas as they will probably appear in the new definition that will be and amendement of the proposed one. This is not the end, this is just another beginning in this process of redefinition. I invite all members to participate in the discussions as they advance.

Further information

Since ICOM’s creation in 1946, the ICOM definition played a central role for museums and museum professionnals and became a reference in the international museum community. According to the current ICOM Statutes, adopted by the 22nd General Assembly in Vienna, Austria, on 24 August, 2007:
“A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”
In the aftermath of the 2016 ICOM General Conference in Milan, a new Standing Committee was appointed to study the current definition. The Committee on Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials has explored the shared but also the profoundly dissimilar conditions, values and practices of museums in diverse and rapidly changing societies. Combining broad dialogue across the membership with dedicated expert fora, the committee addressed the ambiguous and often contradictory trends in society, and the subsequent new conditions, obligations and possibilities for museums. On this basis, the following definition was proposed to the Kyoto Extraordinary General Assembly:
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.
For additional information about this process, read