ICOM – International Council of Museums

The International Council of Museums is the only global museum association in the world. It provides museums and museum professionals with national, regional and international platforms of dialogue and exchange of ethical standards and innovative practices.

Since its creation in 1946, ICOM is committed to the protection and promotion of museums and the heritage with which they are entrusted; natural and cultural, present and future, tangible and intangible. It also advocates the crucial role they play in the sustainable development of societies as unique sources of information, inspiration and insight.

Today, ICOM is a worldwide network made up from more than 49,000 members representing 142 countries and territories, grouped in 118 National Committees. It also fosters six Regional Alliances and 32 International Committees dedicated to various museum specialties.

The International Committees are ICOM’s think- tanks, made up of passionate individuals working on a voluntary basis to further research and advance knowledge in their area of expertise. Finally, our Standing Committees deal with subjects that are topical to ICOM, such as the museum definition, disaster risk management and ethical issues. In total, our committees organise around 200 conferences and workshops around the world every year.

The values and principles shared by ICOM and the international museum community are encapsulated in the ICOM Code of Ethics. It is officially recognised as the main international ethical standard for museums, as it sets minimum standards of professional practice and performance for museums and its premises are included in the national legislations of a number of countries.

ICOM is deeply committed to the protection of heritage in danger, whether that is from natural or man- made disasters. The ICOM Disaster Risk Management Committee (DRMC) gathers heritage professionals to help countries following major emergency situations or to limit and contain damage through preventive conservation measures.

For the past 20 years, our organisation has also lead the efforts in the fight against the illicit traffic in cultural goods, particularly through the publication of the ICOM Red Lists, which classify the categories of endangered cultural objects to prevent them from being sold or illegally exported. These tools have contributed to the identification, recovery and restitution of thousands of cultural objects from Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali.

ICOM considers the transmission of knowledge and know-how a priority. To better serve the members of developing museum communities around the world, it organises capacity building workshops that facilitate world-class training and cross-cultural dialogue between museum professionals, such as the ICOM International Training Centre for Museum Studies (ICOM-ITC) in Beijing. Additionally, since 2016 our organisation has been publishing the peer-reviewed journal Museum International and its research- based monograph series ICOM Advances in Museum Research.

As the main representative of the global museum community in international forums, ICOM advocates for policies that will make the cultural heritage field thrive. It also issues position statements regarding the challenges it faces, such as the independence of museums or the need of adequate public funding. ICOM also coordinates International Museum Day on May 18th, a celebration held in more than 150 countries and territories which was established by our organisation in 1977.

We believe that museums can play a leading role in the development of sustainable and just societies. In 2018 we established a new working group on Sustainability, whose mission is to help us mainstream the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement across our range of activities while working towards climate change adaptation and mitigations. In the near future, ICOM will also be placing decolonisation in the heart of its activities with the aim of providing a roadmap for communities, museums and governments.


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The ICOM General Conference

The ICOM General Conference is a renowned worldwide hub for exchanging on topical issues museums tackle today, as well as the most innovative solutions. Since 1948, every three years, our organisation gathers the international museum community around a theme of crucial interest to foster cultural exchange, promote international cooperation, and to inspire local actions in order to allow museums to continue their mission in service of society.

From Paris to Kyoto, after 25 successful editions, ICOM’s flagship conference attracts around 4,500 participants from all international backgrounds, renowned speakers and world-class experts that come together to attend debates, round tables, panels, networking events and cultural activities.

The ICOM General Conference also hosts the International Museum Fair and EXPO Forum, where museums and related companies presents inspiring displays as well as the state of the art technology. This fair provides a unique opportunity for a global audience of heritage and museum experts to discover new ideas and breakthrough solutions.



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