On the second day of the conference, the morning sessions focused on two major themes: sustainability and a role for leadership. The programme started with the ('trending') theme of sustainability. The keynote speech was given by Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, leader of the Fridays for Future initiative in Uganda. In the first half of her keynote speech, she drew attention to the exploitation of Uganda, Africa and nature, the wasteful actions of our colonial past that affect our present and future. According to her, the role of museums is to preserve the past, educate the present (and the present generation) and shape the future. Until now, visiting museums has only been a privilege for the upper classes, she says, adding that museums should be open institutions, accessible to all. She believes the future lies in young people, so it is important that as many young people as possible are put in decision-making positions where they can make a difference. She also considers it very important to involve young people in all areas and to educate them. The audience was also given a homework assignment: try to start and implement a sustainability project in your own environment and community. She said that this was not an easy and painless task, but by working together with hope and love, we could all be able to initiate change. We need to change our mindset to be the changemaker ourselves. As she concluded, this can only work if there is love. The majority of the audience was standing and applauding, Hilda Flavia was emotional and I was thinking, I had barely finished my first coffee and the second day had barely started, but we were already at the top, where to next?
The speech obviously inspired and motivated many of us, there were many comments and questions, a lot of very serious and deep thoughts and perhaps one of the most interesting was Henry McGhie's question: Hilda Flavia, what do you think British museums can do for Uganda (a former British colony)? This closed a circle, or opened a new one - I don't know - but in any case it started a dialogue, which perhaps had never been before, between former a colony and its ex-colonial power.
Then the round table discussion started, still on the topic of sustainability. The three speakers came from three different worlds and looked at the issue from different perspectives. It is what Mordecai Ogada PhD, Kenyan conservator and ecologist said: "We need to learn about our heritage, but first we need to forget about the things that are told about us." This was the essence of his short speech, in which he raised, among other issues the fact that Africa is still a field of study for students of African Studies and Africanist colleagues asd well. Ha said: 'As long as we think of Africa as a field of study, and only see what else can be fetched, taken from there, or acquired, Africa will only think of itself as a case study. We have to change that. And that is where museums have a big role to play. African museums should act as windows, that open up the soul of Africa and its people, and show them who they really are.
The second speaker was Sébastien Soubiran from the University Museum of Strasbourg. He thinks of university museums as links that connect different worlds, in particular the university world with the museum world, that is, the spiritual with the material. They embody the material and cultural dimensions of knowledge. Their main task is to work with communities to develop tools that promote sustainability. In this way, the relationship between science and society can be renewed and thus become a public good, a shared value.
The third speaker was a local collegue, Ondřej Dostál from the National Technical Museum Prague. He began with a controversial statement that a sustainable museum was the same as a resilient museum. He then went on to point out that cultural sustainability was considered a pillar of social sustainability, although it could perhaps be considered one of the main pillars of sustainability. He believes that truth is the tool that helps us to achieve sustainability.
, the new Strategic Plan was presented by the ICOM Strategic Planning Committee. The basic idea behind the 2022-2028 Strategic Plan, to be adopted at the General Assembly on Thursday, is also about change. The plan was presented by Carol Ann Scott, who began her presentation by saying "this plan is about change - the changes that museums face and the changes that will enable ICOM to continue to support its network into the future." The plan will focus on hot, trendy, contemporary topics such as digitalisation, digital futures, communication, decolonisation, restitution, climate change, social diversity, sustainability, leadership, etc. After a short presentation, the attendees were invited to ask questions and discuss the new plan.
The last session, before lunch (and already running into the afternoon), focused on leadership. Two keynote presentations were given by Hilary Carty, Executive Director of Clore Leadership and Lonnie G. Bunch III, 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Change came up several times here, with both speakers agreeing that change is constant that must be accepted, and that good leaders can manage change well by following values and principles that should also remain constant.
In the roundtable discussion that followed, Elizabeth Merritt, Vice President of Strategic Foresight and founding director of Museums for Future, described museums with a mosaic word, VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). Volatile because of the growing influence of social media, demanding constant speed. Uncertain, because we never know what is coming, whether or not there will be more work from home, for example. Complex, here she cited different options for funding as an example. And ambiguous, because after all why do we trust the museum? And what exactly do we trust? These were the main points he raised. This is where strategic foresight can help to get museums out of this unpredictable situation.
Marek Prokůpek, Adjunct Professor of Arts Management at KEDGE Arts School, KEDGE Business School, France, discussed the issues and difficulties of museum funding. Museums are under increasing pressure for funding, economic values are more and more relevant, so the museum has to have an economic impact. Government and policy makers are demanding efficiency. In such a context, museums need collaborations and partnerships. One of the foundations for sustainable funding, he says, is the implementation of risk management strategies to make the museum less vulnerable to extreme events. At the end of his presentation, he referred to the Museum Leadership Project managed by INTERCOM.
Andrés Roldán, Director of Parque Explora in Colombia, spoke about the need for museums to be community spaces, accessible and inclusive, connecting different social groups. He cited the example of Parque Explora as an example of this. A museum can function as a cultural and social centre.
The final introductory presentation of the roundtable was given by Antje Schmidt, Head of the Digital Department at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MK&G). The museum has undergone an institutional and digital reorganisation and transformation, and Antje Schmidt shared her experiences with us. She explained that it is a long and difficult task that every museum has to face individually, she cannot give general truths, only what she has experienced. But one thing that is universally important for all museums is reflective thinking, always questioning oneself and thinking with a critical eye, rethinking everything.
The post-lunch sessions again broke up the huge crowd into small groups. Each national or technical committee discussed more and more interesting topics in these sessions. For those who wanted a change of pace between the many presentations, the museum market was a great opportunity to discover new technologies, other museums and professional institutions, as well as bookshops and publications. After a bit of browsing at the market, I ended the day with a meeting of the ICOM COSTUME committee. The committee of ICOM members interested in clothing provided a change of pace from the other sessions. Instead of theoretical presentations, the speakers presented concrete examples and cases. We were able to learn about the costume of a Buddhist monk, the restoration of the officer's robes of the Order of the Holy Spirit in France, and could also hear about the folk costumes of Colombia and a most interesting presentation by Alexandra Palmer on the costume of Dr. Péter Forbáth, who emigrated to Canada in 1956.
The professional programme ended on Tuesday evening, but curious colleagues can visit local museums and take part in special events until midnight as part of the Night of Museums.
Translation by Julianna Kárpáti