ICOM Annual Report 2016


A message from Suay Aksoy, ICOM President & Peter Keller, ICOM Director General



In 2016, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) celebrated its 70th anniversary. This milestone coincided with the 24th ICOM Triennial General Conference, held in July in Milan, Italy – a crowning moment that allowed us to assess and commemorate seven decades of accomplishments, dialogue on the current state of the museum and heritage landscape, and look ahead to future developments and opportunities for our field, and our network.


Gathering some 3,500 participants from 129 countries for a week of encounters and discussions, networking and capacity building, ICOM Milano 2016 reinvigorated our organisation with ideas and initiatives that will lead us forward in the coming months and years, with an eye firmly fixed on ICOM’s legacy. A dense and rich publication entitled Museums, Ethics and Cultural Heritage was launched in Milan, featuring an array of contributions contextualising ICOM’s vital role in the field of museum ethics over the decades. The exhibition Where ICOM from, meanwhile, retraced ICOM’s development over 70 years, highlighting members’ stories and archives and creating memories on the spot in a selfie wall that grew over the course of the conference, providing a collective snapshot of ICOM today.


The 2016 General Conference was also a turning point for ICOM in other respects vital to the organisation’s life cycle and identity: a new President and a new Executive Board were elected, the new Strategic Plan for 2016-2022 was adopted, based on the principles of independence, integrity and professionalism, and a new ICOM logo was unveiled, in an effort to better reflect our mission, dynamism and diversity.


Our core work remained steady over the course of 2016, however. ICOM maintained and expanded its efforts to protect cultural heritage in danger: a Red List of West African Cultural Objects at Risk was published, as were German translations of the respective Red Lists for Iraq and Libya; and ICOM National Committees on all corners of the globe organised conferences and campaigns to raise awareness of illicit trafficking in cultural heritage in their different regions and enhance the use of existing Red Lists to combat it.


Capacity building activities continued in 2016, notably with two new sessions of the ICOM International Training Centre (ITC) at the Palace Museum in Beijing, China, respectively devoted to “Current Practices in Museum Management” (April) and “Collecting Objects, Telling Stories” (November).


The institution that unites us, the museum, has transformed over the decades and centuries, shifting from an aesthetic and educational role towards a more explicitly social role, responding to the present and urgent need to enhance mutual understanding, both within communities and across boundaries, physical and figurative. An array of meetings, events and initiatives by ICOM committees last year addressed this increasingly active role, encompassing issues ranging from migrations to accessibility, community outreach and education, and resonating with the ICOM Milano 2016 theme, “Museums and Cultural Landscapes”, in advocating a vision of museums that hold responsibilities beyond their walls. In a world fraught with social, political and economic turmoil and rife with conflict, as calls for closed borders multiply and eyes shut tight to the plights of those seeking to cross
them, ICOM holds a unique and privileged position in bridging cultures, through our network of 37.000 museum professionals in 141 countries, representing a veritable microcosm of our plan et.


Every ICOM General Conference is a reaffirmation that the strength of our network lies in its diversity, and 2016 was, more than ever, a year of unprecedented activity in our arena of expertise. Moving forward in 2017 and beyond, let us continue to celebrate our accomplishments while striving to realise our potentials.


Suay Aksoy, ICOM President
Peter Keller, ICOM Director General