What Can We Learn from International Museums? Encouraging A Global Relationship Between Museums

Added to Medium, October 26, 2017

When I began my career as a museum educator, I learned about various local, regional, and national organizations that provide professional development and other resources for museums. As I continue my career in the museum field, I also learned more about international museum organizations that offer similar resources for museum professionals around the world. I understood that museums can benefit from meeting with other museum professionals to share ideas and learn from each other about various museum operations especially education programming. Museums and museum professionals have opportunities to gather and learn from one another to keep developments in the field moving forward.

During tonight’s #MuseumEdChat on Twitter, myself and other participants emphasized the importance of learning from other professionals in the field. One of the participants, on answering a question about mentorship, pointed out that “people with varying areas of expertise need to mentor you through different issues”. There are so many professionals with various areas of expertise we work with that it is important to collaborate and seek guidance.

Another participant also thought about “colleagues in museums in other countries who literally risk their lives to preserve culture.” Museum professionals in many countries are dedicated to preserving culture, and work together to provide resources to help one another.

If we continue to engage with museum professionals both within our country and outside of the country, we will not only have a better understanding of one another we will also be leading by example on dealing with current issues in the world.

I was first introduced to international organizations when I learned about MuseumNext.

Museum Next is an organization that began in 2009 with the question “what’s next for museums?” They discovered that the answer to this question is as varied as the people who are building it. This organization builds a global community of museum leaders, innovators and makers who champion future thinking in museums. MuseumNext has led to collaborations that span the globe, and the influence of this passionate community can be seen in action in museums all over the world. It offers conferences held throughout the year in Europe, North America and Australia to offer participants the opportunity to hear inspiring presentations, pick up career skills in expert hosted workshops and network with fellow delegates.

When I began writing my blog, I began to learn more about international museum organizations through LinkedIn and other social media outlets such as Museums Association and the International Council of Museums (ICOM).

Museums Association is a UK based organization that inspires museums to change lives. It is the oldest museums association in the world (set up in 1889) based in London, and is independently funded by memberships. Their memberships are made up of museum professionals, institutions and corporate members. Museums Association values a lot in making museums have impacts on lives. This organization values having the courage to say what they believe; passion about delivering diversity and equality; working collaboratively, inclusively, and ethically; and lead change by example. The Association advocates for museums, sets ethical standards and runs training and professional development for members wishing to further their careers.

Museums Association is governed by a board of trustees from all parts of the UK museum community, elected by MA members. It runs various professional development programs, including conferences, and mentoring and regular training events.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) is an organization created in 1946 by and for museum professionals with more than 37,000 members and museum professionals who represent the global museum community. A diplomatic forum made up of experts from 141 countries and territories was formed to respond to the challenges museums face worldwide. ICOM carries out international missions thanks to international mandates in association with partners including UNESCO, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO). Also, ICOM is committed to providing cultural institutions with the necessary support and risk prevention tools when faced with conflict situations or natural disasters.

ICOM also organized International Museum Day, a worldwide event held around May 18th which aims to increase public awareness of the role of museums in developing society since 1977. Participation in International Museum Day promotes greater diversity and intercultural dialogue among the international museum community, and each year ICOM identifies a theme for the event. I have spread awareness of this worldwide event for years since I discovered it early on in my career. This past year’s theme was “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums” which focuses on the role of museums that, by working to benefit society, become hubs for promoting peaceful relationships between people.

In addition to previously mentioned, ICOM also operates thirty international committees on a range of museum specialties, who conduct advanced research in their respective fields for the benefit of the museum community. Some of the committees include CECA – Education & Cultural Action, DEMHIST – Historic House Museums, ICOM-CC – Conservation, and ICFA – Fine Arts.

There are so many international museum organizations out there that emphasize the importance of museums and what they offer.

On the social media outlets, I have had discussions with museum professionals from various countries including but not limited to Uganda and Nigeria; there have been sharing points of view as well as sharing advice during these conversations. By connecting with museum professionals outside the country, I learn more about the museum field on a larger scale and appreciate so much diversity our world has to offer; we could (and should) celebrate what all of us in the world have to offer.

Do you know of other international museum organizations? What has your experience like connecting/networking with international museum professionals?


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