ICOM-Europe: Activity-Report 2003

Thanks to our colleague Jens Brienegaard from Denmark who took the initiative last year to revitalise Europe’s regional committee, there was ICOM-Europe’s board election at the end of 2002. Most of the chairpersons of the European national committees took part in the election. As its result, the board members are as follows: Ebba Brännback from Finland, Ralf Ceplak Mencin from Slovenia, Nick Merriman from the U.K., Agrita Ozola from Latvia, Michel Praët from France, Theresa Vella from Malta and myself from Germany as chairperson.

The board met already twice this year. The first meeting was held in Berlin on 30th March 2003, the second on 1st June in Paris.

In a letter to all chairpersons of the national committees of ICOM in Europe, dated April, the newly elected board explained the results of the board discussion concerning the board’s policy for the coming years.

First of all, we pointed out that all national committees which belong to Europe according to the official UNESCO definition, are automatically members of the regional organisation of ICOM. In so far, the rules have to be worked over since application procedures are not necessary.
The board of ICOM-Europe recognised that there are already several international working groups within Europe, such as Central European ICOM (CEICOM), organised by the countries along the former Iron Curtain, the Lake Constance Conference, a triennial meeting of the three German-speaking committees, ICOM-Nord, the working of the five Scandinavian countries and also the working group of the three Baltic states. As the all-European regional committee, ICOM-Europe would appreciate if information about the work of the international working groups inside Europe could be shared with all European members. The respective members of the national committees in charge are kindly asked to provide ICOM-Europe with dates and themes about their work to allow ICOM-Europe to distribute such information through ICOM-networks in Europe.

Since ICOM-Europe is more than the countries of the European Union, EU-Europe is one of the focuses of ICOM-Europe’s work, but not the only one. One of the suggestions is that ICOM-Europe should work as a lobbyist in Brussels and should support all members with information. This is of course a good idea, but realisation seems to be impossible since ICOM has no budget to pay for a consultant in the EU-capital. However there is the idea of working closely with NEMO, the Network of European Museum organisations, which is organised by the national museum organisation and which already has close links with Brussels. They meet approximately twice a year with representatives of the EU-Commission as well as with members of Parliament. ICOM-Europe is in contact with NEMO and NEMO has accepted with pleasure to work together on topics concerning the European Union. There will be an official meeting between NEMO and ICOM-Europe this year and we will provide the members with more information about the results as soon as possible.

ICOM-Europe will pay attention to the eastern and southern areas of Europe, especially those countries which do not belong to the EU. Experience tell us that museum colleagues from those countries often do not feel well recognised by the rest of Europe. ICOM-Europe will bridge this gap and has already asked the chairpersons, what can ICOM-Europe do for them. First reactions show that workshop topics like looted objects or repatriation of cultural property displays in wartime should be offered. Since there have been just a few reactions to our April-letter, we will wait for a while and then decide how to organise a common activity about an international topic which would also help to link the eastern part of Europe with the rest of the continent.

ICOM-Europe offers partnerships for international museum activities in Europe. Member committees can apply for ICOM-Europe’s patronage. If the application is accepted, the respective exhibition or conference can use the name of ICOM-Europe as a partner of the activity. In the meantime, there are already a few partnerships between ICOM-Europe and high standard international projects, such as the MUSEDOMA, an awareness conference in Berlin (late March 2003), an international conference series about history museums in post communist times in Russia (April 2003), Belarus (September 2003) and Germany (2004), an international conference about “Illegal Archaeology” in Berlin (May 2003) as well as an international summer school of museology in the Baltic states (2004).

Another aspect of ICOM-Europe’s work is cooperation with other regional organisations, especially Europe’s neighbour region, represented by ICOM-Arab. It is not just the recent political conflicts but a deficit of knowledge about each other that ICOM-Europe is interested in closer contacts to the Arabian world.
In the meantime, ICOM-Arab and ICOM-Europe are discussing joint activities as well as patronages for museum activities. Probably, there will be a workshop in the Mediterranean, where themes of common interests will be discussed.

Several other questions were discussed among the board members such as the state indemnity for exhibition exchange. We tried to find out which of the European countries offer already state indemnity and on what level (national, regional, local) and whether state indemnities are accepted among museums from different European countries.

Another point is the problem that ICOM’s international Museum Day which is celebrated around 18th May, and Spring Museum Day which is celebrated always during the first weekend in May in some of the European countries, differ in dates and themes. We asked all members if this is a problem for the respective country. We do not have enough answers to make a statement, but as we heard, there are problems especially in border regions of those countries who celebrate different museum days. As a result, cross border projects cannot be realised. ICOM-Europe wants to find out if both Museum Day-organisers are flexible enough to merge dates and themes which allows the national ICOM-committees to bring museums together.

The newly elected board of ICOM-Europe hopes very much to strengthen the links between all members of the regional organisation and supports the European ICOM-family with ideas as well as activities in order to develop international understanding which allows the museums of our continent to offer attractive exhibitions and other activities.

Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz