ICOM Australia Chair Alec Coles


It has been a busy few months for your ICOM Executive, with a number of initiatives underway, not least to secure funding to work with some of our colleagues in neighbouring countries.

As your Chair, I have spent an unusual amount of time overseas on ICOM business – some of it planned and some of it not!

In October, representing ICOM Australia, I was pleased to be able to speak at a conference in Singapore, organised jointly between Singapore’s National Heritage Board and ICOM Singapore. The conference played host to ICOM’s Committee on Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials (MDPP 2017-2019). The committee is exploring the shared and dissimilar conditions, values and practices of museums in diverse and rapidly changing societies. I was pleased to provide both an address and sit on a panel considering these issues. The thrust of my argument is that museums have changed radically in recent years, in terms of their aspirations, purpose and impact, but it is important, however, that we consider the views of our audiences and stakeholders in this argument. Too often, as a sector, we engage in navel gazing and talking to ourselves. We do well to an organisational brand – it is not what we (the organisation) think it is it is what they (the audiences) think it is!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was honoured to be invited by ICOM China to attend a series of ICOM meetings at the 8th Chinese Museums and Relevant Products and Technologies Exposition (MTP-Expo) in Fuzhou and associated events in Putian.

I attended a number of sessions at the ICOM Young Professionals event (as an observer!) and to represent ICOM Australia at the International Training Centre (ICOM ITC) where again, there was a focus on looking at how we can evolve training priorities to better support emerging colleagues for their careers in museums of the future – not unrelated to the ‘Museum Definition Debate’.

Another important part of the Fuzhou meetings was receiving updates on the planning for the ICOM Triennial in Kyoto, next year.

Sandwiched between this was a piece of unexpected ICOM business in Berlin where I was a delegate at the inaugural Global Summit of Research Museums, representing the Western Australian Museum. ICOM President, Suay Aksoy was one of the keynote speakers, but was unfortunately unwell and had to withdraw at the last minute. I was, however, able to act as last minute substitute and deliver a keynote: The power of collaboration – making your research count.

I would not like you to think that I have spent the last three years as ICOM Australia Chair globetrotting, but there has been a concentration of activity over the last few weeks. I am pleased to be back on Australian soil for the festive period and I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our ICOM Australia members the warmest Season’s Greetings. May you have an enjoyable and restful holiday break, and a peaceful new year.

Alec Coles
ICOM Australia

December 2018