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A New ICOM Museum Definition for the 21st century in Southeast Asia (3rd and Final Episode in a Museum Move series with Dr Ana Labrador)

Dr Ana started the session by showing how museums around the region celebrated the international Museum Day, and again the Museum Solidarity with Ukraine. She then proceeded with the brief history of ICOM’s new museum definition, the processes that they had to go through such as 4 rounds of consultation, divided 1 into 11 steps with a duration of 18 months at the 91st session of the advisory council. Other information and details on these processes can be accessed on the ICOM website.

Dr Ana then proceeded to discuss the challenges encountered in defining the new museum definition in past assemblies. Several factors were considered such as whether the concept can be translated in official languages (Spanish and French) or other local languages, legislative considerations and most importantly, a realistic rather than aspirational and not-for-profit definition applicable to all.

Implications would factor in the museum work and definition. Some of the factors identified were the following: framework for museum accessibility, sustainability, identifying appropriate keywords, consultation with indigenous groups, inclusiveness with PWDs, and succession plans. The important thing is the need to create museums and programs that we all deserve and emphasize what we’re doing and what we can do more for the public.

Museums will continue to be redefined in the years to come as the field is dynamic, stories will continue to be documented to protect legacies, the need to co-curate and go beyond objects, and explore digital platforms. There is also the importance of inclusion, sustainability, and access in 21st century museums as context and content remains to be integral. Museums can serve as safe spaces or sites of investigation, going beyond being contact zones such as: dream spaces, areas of liberation and sites of identities and to engage the disengaged like the marginalized groups.

The ICOM Extraordinary General Assembly in Prague in August 2022 will vote on a new proposed definition that is data driven and extensively reviewed and discussed.

The question of what museums are for has always been asked, and this new definition will put in perspective the answers to this. The new definition will also be significant in the region as it will formalize the initiative of museums (i.e. free entry, programs, and the like), as a means to liberate from “shackles of tradition”, attracting quality visitors and a venue and safe space for open dialogues and discussion. Engaging the community and collaborating with them will add value to the museum’s survival in these dynamic times.

Just before her presentation ended, Dr Ana shared valuable resources that can be easily accessed online for more information on museums.

The SESH ended with a short discourse between Director Somlak and Dr Ana regarding the definition of museums as well as Q&A from the SESH audience.

If you have watched or joined the live broadcast of this SPAFA SESH, please complete the questionnaire (approximately 3 to 5 minutes) to help us improve future SPAFA SESHes: https://bit.ly/EvaluationForm_AMuseumDefinition

A New ICOM Museum Definition for the 21st century in Southeast Asia

Date: 22 July 2022

Time: 10 a.m. (Bangkok)

Online Platform: Facebook Live https://www.facebook.com/seameo.spafa/ and on *Zoom. *(https://bit.ly/SPAFA-sesh_New-ICOM-museum-definition)

Following nearly two years of work of the new Standing Committee for Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials of the International Council for Museums (ICOM), a vote will be cast after discussions over a new museum definition that has gone through data gathering and analysis, as well as, more than once-a-month exchange of views among members of the Standing Committee and its subcommittees. This was the response of the ICOM’s leadership following controversies on the proposed new definition in June 2019 during the previous Triennial in Kyoto, Japan, and eventual resignation of ICOM’s President in mid-2020. In this presentation, returning special guest speaker, Dr Ana Labrador, will talk about the need for a new museum definition, its implications for our region and the way in which we will run our museums in the future.

Guest Speaker: Dr. Ana Maria Theresa P. Labrador

Moderator: SEAMEO SPAFA Centre Director, Mrs Somlak Charoenpot

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