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Always further – some reflections to imagine now the museum of tomorrow

What is the influence of the crisis on museums around the world? How do institutions adapt? Natural disasters, political revolutions, funding difficulties, ... Reasons abound to re-pose the question of the preservation and exhibition of our heritage and artwork.


The perception of the museum in the popular imagery, between the dusty gallery and the cultural incubator essential for the development of cities and territories, is as multiple as the existing types of museums themselves. The museum’s pattern is very fragmented and it is now essential to make possible for the various institutions to move towards innovative structures without putting aside traditions and techniques developed over time, says Julien Anfruns, Director General of the ICOM. Far from being outdated, museums have emerged as new social and cultural spaces, which, in today’s context, have to be aware of the necessity to diversify their funding sources.


In Europe, the institutions able to raise private funds and thereby free themselves the state, as it is the case in the UK, have been less affected by budget cuts. These later have instead been strongly felt in countries like the Netherlands, Spain or Italy, where museums remain dependent on public funding. The objectives of moving towards a mixed funding model should be rooted in realistic principles, tailor-made for each institution, while ensuring that private investors are not simply substituted to public ones. In this perspective, legal frameworks must leave space for companies and individual patronage, providing the museums with the necessary tools to achieve their goals and building strong and fruitful partnerships in the long run.


In countries with strong capital inflows, projects blossom (e.g. more than 20 projects are underway in China, coordinated by well-known architects for most of them), validating the correlation between growth and cultural investment. They nevertheless raise other questions: what support for the public? How to ensure that these museums are integrated into the local social and economic fabric? The activities of the IBRAM in Brazil (Brazilian Institute of Museums) show an effective willingness to integrate museums into the country's development.


Finally, the tensions on issues such as the restitution of artworks or protection of the heritage in times of conflict, are echoing the recommendations of many observers calling for better coordination and increased dialogue between political and cultural key players on these fundamental questions for the preservation and transmission of our heritage


In this context, the mission of the ICOM (International Council of Museums), developing reflections on these topics through 117 national and 31 international committees and a global network bringing together 30 000 museums and partners, makes sense. Founded in 1946, this institution contributes to the protection of tangible and intangible cultural assets, particularly through the action of the “blue shields”. It also plays a part in the debates through its think tank activity or the organization of conferences and of an international forum dedicated to discussions on the future challenges to be faced by museums in the 137 countries and territories attending.


Many thanks to Julien Anfruns, Director General of the ICOM for the interview granted to the Forum d’Avignon.


To learn more about the ICOM, click here


Credits photo : Jordan Sim