„ICOM-Europe’s New Beginning”
Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz
Chairman of ICOM-Europe
President of ICOM-Germany

Annual conference of the
Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO)
Berlin, 28 November 2003
Museum für Indische Kunst
Takustraße 40, 14195 Berlin

Dear colleagues from NEMO,

it’s a great delight and an even greater honour speaking to you about the work of ICOM-Europe at your annual meeting here in Berlin. One year ago I have become chairman of this regional ICOM-organisation and I have been working as president of ICOM-Germany for five years now.

Surely, all of you are familiar with the structures of ICOM well enough to understand that there are 118 national committees and 28 international specialised committees worldwide as well as the Affiliated International Organisations.

During the last decade, it has been an important aim to develop regional ICOM-organisations in order to intensify co-operation between the national committees of the respective continent. The result are regional ICOM-groups in Latin America, in the Asian Pacific region, in the Arabian area, in some African sub-regions and since ICOM’s General Conference in Stavanger in 1995, ICOM-Europe has been established. This foundation was a logical consequence because approximately 70% of all ICOM-members are living and working in Europe. However, since its start, the European regional organisation had to decide whether it should concentrate its work on Europe of the European Union or on the entire European continent.

Unfortunately, ICOM-Europe’s conception covering the first years has proved as not being efficient. Therefore, a lively discussion arose in the Advisory Committee of ICOM last year concerning the role of ICOM-Europe. This ended last autumn with the election of the present board. The following chairpersons belong to ICOM-Europe’s governing board: France, United Kingdom, Finland, Latvia, Slovenia, Malta and Germany.

Probably, the chairpersons of the national committees of the European countries have elected me as chairman of ICOM-Europe because they have learned about the profile of ICOM-Germany’s new programme. It consists mainly of offering the members a straight international and topical interest variety for their own events. The themes vary clearly from those of the International Committees of ICOM as well as from those of the German national Museum Association because the majority of the themes is more concentrated on museums and cultural politics and, most of all, they are international.

Mainly, the conferences are taking place where the subject can be discussed on the spot and this allows a new way of internationalising of museum work. Therefore, we held our conferences of the National Committee in the previous years firstly at the UNESCO in Paris about international culture politics, then in Brussels about culture policy of the European Union and its support programmes of museums. In Warsaw we had a congress concerning the change of museums after the end of the Cold War and an other one in Washington this year with the topic of visitor awareness in museums. This gave an enormous amount of opportunities to experience new ways of cooperation among ICOM-partner committees of the corresponding countries.

Since I don’t want to amplify, only so much: the events have always brought about a stream of participants with the result that ICOM-Germany received many new membership applications as well as the committee gained more influence on society, especially when dealing with subjects like the Code of Ethics and others.

Coming back to ICOM-Europe:
In the future, we would like to emphasise the following features:

1. The Europe of the European Union

Our members feel a great urge to take into account the effects of the European Union’s work on the museums of our continent. The favourite thought is to have a consultant in Brussels who could co-ordinate all the information he or she receives. To me, this is a rather unrealistic idea because it is too expensive and on the other hand NEMO has already a consultation mechanism at its disposal at Brussels. Therefore, I don’t see any reason why we should have a double-structured system. In my opinion, a co-operation between NEMO and ICOM-Europe meets the interests of all our members. The board of ICOM-Europe would welcome our participation on the NEMO-consultations in Brussels by questions and answers of our members and on the other hand communicate results of the Brussels talks in the ICOM-family. Perhaps this situation will help to construct a long-term co-operation.

2. Europe beyond the European Union

With the end of the Cold War came also the end of the Iron Curtain. The national committees of ICOM of the border states along the Iron Curtain have been working for over ten years in tight co-operations in the regional working group called Central European ICOM (CEICOM) with the goal of overcoming their contrasts with great success. Nevertheless, the division of the continent is still not over. Especially in the eastern and southeastern regions of the continent beyond the new frontiers of the European Union, there is a great concern in the museum world to be forgotten by the rest of Europe. Therefore, ICOM-Europe concentrates its work on East- and Southeast-Europe in order to bring together committees as well as colleagues from all those nations. We have begun this policy in 2003 and have started a workshop series named ‘Museum work After the End of Communism’, together with Russian, Belarussian and German institutions. The first part was a conference in the Russian city of Tver (north of Moscow) in April 2003 with a focus on the work of regional museums. The second part dealt with ‘Identity’ and took place in the Belarussian capital Minsk in September 2003. The third and last workshop will be realised in Berlin in April 2004. This workshop series demonstrates clearly the strong demand of exchange of international experience.

Many events have been and will be under the auspieces or patronage of ICOM-Europe. This proved to be quite helpful because it facilitates the realisation of the events immensely. For the coming year, auspieces are planned for an international Baltic museums workshop and for a German-Luxembourgian symposium titled ‘Exhibits as Historical Testimonies’ as well as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’. Further activities for the years to come are being discussed.

3. ICOM-Europe and the Intercultural Dialogue

Apart from the European activities, we would like to offer our colleagues the exchange of different cultural substances - a necessity for ICOM as a world organisation. As one result, we have already made first contacts with our neighbour-region ICOM-Arab and will have first talks with its board in January 2004 with the goal of developing joint activities. Our idea is to build a workshop for Arabian and European colleagues that will deal with questions of communication and education concerning museums work. Furthermore, we are planning joint patronage for Arabian-European projects. For example, for the planned exhibition ‘Saladin and the Crusaders’ in Mannheim and Damascus we will not only take the patronage but we will as well realise Arabian-European symposiums for the fringe programme in order to discuss the different point of views on history and culture.

If ICOM-Europe is successful in intensifying the international dialogue among our members so that colleagues from various states get more and better information about each other and increase the mutual comprehension, then our task will be fulfilled. I myself would appreciate future co-work of ICOM-Europe and NEMO very much. I invite all of you cordially to stimulate common activities .

Thank you very much indeed