International Council of Museums (ICOM), Jette Sandahl, Long Gramscian March Through the Institutions
Wikipedia: “Jette Sandahl (born 1949) is a Danish curator, museum director and business executive. Founding director of the Womenâ€™s Museum of Denmark and the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg, Sweden, she has more recently served as director of the Museum of Copenhagen. She is currently a member of the European Museum Forum’s board of trustees.”
Zachary Small, at the normally ridiculously left-wing Hyperallergenic blog, blandly describes the establishment brouhaha over a new revised (and Woke) definition of a museum originally intended to be quickly rammed through into acceptance.
For almost 50 years, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has defined the museum as â€œa nonprofit institutionâ€ that â€œacquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment.â€
But an updated version of the definition would incorporate mention of â€œhuman dignity and social justice,â€ references which have split the consortiumâ€™s 40,000 professionals representing 20,000 museums across ideological lines. And last week, 24 national branches of the council â€” including those of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada, and Russia â€” requested a postponement of the revisionâ€™s official vote in order to deliver a â€œnew proposal.â€
Jette Sandahl is the Danish curator who lead ICOMâ€™s commission on the new definition, suggesting that the current one â€œdoes not speak the language of the 21st centuryâ€ by ignoring demands of â€œcultural democracy.â€ Her amended conceptualization of the museum reads:
Museums are democratizing, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures. Acknowledging and addressing the conflicts and challenges of the present, they hold artifacts and specimens in trust for society, safeguard diverse memories for future generations and guarantee equal rights and equal access to heritage for all people.
Museums are not for profit. They are participatory and transparent, and work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.
Backlash to Sandahlâ€™s suggestion came quickly. Juliette Raoul-Duval, who chairs ICOM France, soon denounced it as an â€œideologicalâ€ manifesto, â€œpublished without consultingâ€œ the national branches. Even Hugues de Varine, a former director of ICOM and an early proponent of the â€œnew museologyâ€ movement in the 1970s, found the definition effuse. The Art Newspaper reports that he was surprised by the â€œover inflated verbiageâ€ of an â€œideological preamble,â€ which does not distinguish a museum from a cultural center, library, or laboratory.
Evidence suggests that the feud between different interests in ICOM began as early as June. It was then that FranÃ§ois Mairesse, a professor at the UniversitÃ© Sorbonne Nouvelle and the chair of the International Committee of Museology, resigned from Sandhalâ€™s commission believing that it contradicted two years worth of past discussions.
â€œA definition is a simple and precise sentence characterizing an object, and this is not a definition but a statement of fashionable values, much too complicated and partly aberrant,â€ Mairesse told the Art Newspaper. â€œIt would be hard for most French museums â€” starting with the Louvre â€” to correspond to this definition, considering themselves as â€˜polyphonic spaces.â€™ The ramifications could be serious. ICOMâ€™s statement can be included in national or international legislation and there is no way a jurist could reproduce this text.â€
Many critics agree with Mairesse, judging the new definition as too political and too vague for defining museums.