ICOM is leading and will continue to lead the conversation about
what a museum is.
After a profound and healthy debate among ICOM members, the Extraordinary General Assembly has
decided to postpone the vote on the new museum definition. The decision gathered 70,41% votes
“This has been one of the most democratic processes in the history of ICOM”, said Suay Aksoy, President
of ICOM. “The discussion continues, and 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.”
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 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 has been
appointed to study the current definition. The Committee on Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials
(MDPP, 2017-2019) explores 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 is addressing the ambiguous and often contradictory trends in
society, and the subsequent new conditions, obligations and possibilities for museums.