Chair's message archive



Another busy period

It has been another busy period for ICOM both internationally and nationally.

The year has involved a certain amount of navel gazing in terms of amending our rules and procedure  - a process that was both necessary and long overdue. Despite this, we have continued to ensure that our public presence is maintained.

To this end, on this website, you will read of our commitment to International Museum Day – and how we hope you and your institutions will embrace it like never before (!); of the expansion of our student essay competition;  of our exciting sponsored session at the MGA Conference, featuring Angelita Teo; and of our support of an important initiative to build resilience in museums in the Pacific.

There is also information about our popular and successful bursary program.

There is also still just time to nominate for the ICOM Australian Executive Board.

I have said many times, there has never been a more important time for us to be active on the international stage – and there is no better way to do it than by joining – and becoming active – in ICOM!


Alec Coles
ICOM Australia

March 2018


Our place in the world - and what is a Museum?

These might seem rather far reaching philosophical considerations for what is a very short piece, but they are really just to draw attention to a couple of the priorities for your ICOM Australia Executive, right now.

‘Our place in the world’, on this occasion, speaks to the potential for burgeoning relationships with south east Asia and, in particular with the ASEAN group of countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei).

As a (now) dyed-in-the-wool, naturalised West Australian, many of you will have experienced my desire to ensure that whilst ICOM Australia maintains its strong presence in and around the Pacific, we do not forget that we have important relationship surrounding the Indian Ocean rim and the south east Asian countries immediately to our north and east.

Of those ten ASEAN countries, eight have borders with the Pacific, four with both and one (Laos) with neither.

Singapore is one of the four that touches both oceans and so it was particularly gratifying, therefore, to see the commitment of both the Australian and Singaporean Governments to support cultural collaboration and exchange between our two countries.  This was manifest at a Cultural Leaders forum in Adelaide in October which I was privileged to attend.  Both governments have committed funding to this scheme and a number of possible initiatives were discussed and will, hopefully, be progressed.

At the meeting, I was delighted to make contact with the chair of ICOM Singapore and I am hoping that we will be able to work closely together over the coming years in order to assist in the delivery of Australia-Singapore initiatives.  Australia is regularly described as being part of Australasia, Oceania, of Asia, of the Asia-Pacific and the Indo-Pacific.  I do not really care what we call it, but this initiative gives us a real opportunity to collaborate, not only with Singapore, but with its ASEAN partners.  Let us hope that we can seize this opportunity.

With respect to the question what is a Museum, this is something that ICOM, internationally, is wrestling with at the present time.  In its consideration of revision of the definition of a Museum, it has formed a Committee for Museum Definition, Prospects and Potentials.  We have literally just received a request to establish a rounds table to ensure input from ICOM Australia.  I am awaiting further details as to how the round-table should be established, but in the meantime, I encourage all members to consider this in preparation for the debate. Agonising over definitions can seem a little bureaucratic - even self-indulgent – but clear and defensible definitions are critical when considering legal, ethical and, sometimes, financial matters.

Alec Coles
ICOM Australia

December 2017