Archived newsletter articles from Dec 2017 onwards

2018 Sep

2018 Mar

2017 Dec

ICOM Australia Chair Alec Coles

Terrible news from Brazil

It is with much sadness that I consigned my message for this newsletter to the metaphorical bin this morning. It was full of justifiable optimism about ICOM Australia’s future, another successful presence at the MGA Annual Conference and, congratulations to our annual prize winners and the members of our new slimmed down Executive Board. With due deference to all of the above, and offering my thanks to all those who have worked so hard over the previous year, particularly to make the Conference a success, you will understand why, this morning, my thoughts turn to Rio de Janeiro.

The terrible news of the devastating fire that consumed the National Museum of Brazil has stunned and saddened the international museum community. The facts are there before us – Brazil’s oldest and most distinguished museum, situated in the former Imperial palace of São Cristóvão, destroyed along with its extraordinary and unique collections of some 20 million specimens and artefacts.

In a tragic irony, the Museum was, this year, celebrating its 200 year anniversary.

It is literally, every museum worker’s worst nightmare. Many of us will have participated in ‘Disaster Planning’ sessions; many, like me, will have the Museum’s Emergency and Crisis Management plans on our shelves at home, hoping that we never get the call to have to use them; and most, thank goodness, will never have to experience the kind of trauma that our Brazilian colleagues are experiencing now.

This is, of course, an object lesson in some respects: you will have read the recriminations over the serial lack of investment in the Museum for many years in favour of other projects: there have even been riots in the streets about it. Whatever the truth, now is surely not the time for rancour: it is a time to support our international colleagues and the people of Brazil, a country that has, as a result of this fire has lost, not only an integral part of its heritage and identity, but something of it soul.

Alec Coles
ICOM Australia

September 2018




National Museum of Brazil fire

A devastating fire has destroyed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. Housed in the former Imperial palace of São Cristóvão since 1902, the museum was celebrating its 200-year anniversary this year.

It appears that the majority of the Museum's invaluable collection of natural history, mineralogical, paleontological, archaeological, ethnographic, and documentary collections has been destroyed.

ICOM statement Guardian article Wikipedia article



A new Executive Board has been formed following the election at the 2018 AGM. More


ICOM-ITC grants open soon

Applications for the April 2019 program at the ICOM International Training Centre for Museum Studies (ICOM-ITC) in China will open in December. The ICOM-ITC offers full and partial grants to ensure participation from around the world. Courses are offered twice per year, in English. The ITC is a collaboration between ICOM, ICOM China and the Palace Museum in Beijing to offer training programs to the growing community of museums. The focus of this program will be collections, including documentation, preservation and ethics. The call for applications is published on the web page and social networks in December.

DEMHIST grants

Individual and institutional International Committee for Historic House Museums (DEMHIST) members are welcome to apply for grants for collaborative projects with ICOM national groups, other ICOM international committees, or other partners. Contact the DEMHIST secretary for more information and forms.

Conference news

Creative and culture futures: leadership and change
University of Canberra symposium
(Canberra, 12 October 2018)

Join established and emerging industry leaders, academics and practitioners to discuss the future of the cultural sector. The sector is a driver of economic development and is integral to community wellbeing, yet it faces many challenges, from the impact of new technology to changes in funding models. How will we equip professionals in the sector to adapt to these changes, and foster flexibility, confidence and resilience in future leaders? More information


Facing the new political realities: rethinking training for regional museums
(Auckland and Wellington, 4-9 November 2018)

Aotearoa New Zealand is hosting a joint conference of two ICOM groups. The International Committee for Regional Museums (ICR) and the International Committee for the Training of Personnel (ICTOP) have joined forces to consider how best to prepare those working in and with regional museums to manage their museums in constantly changing political environments. Australian colleagues are warmly invited to participate in the conference. Registrations are now open.  More information


Cultural heritage: transition and transformation
ICEE-ICFA annual conference
(Spain, 11-17 November 2018)

A seven-day joint conference bringing together members of the International Committee for Exhibition Exchange (ICEE) and the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Fine Arts (ICFA) with museum and exhibition professionals from all over the world to explore the challenges and opportunities facing museum professionals in the presentation of cultural heritage in today’s complex cultural economy. The conference is a part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Conference information

At the centre: our people, our places, our practices
Museums Galleries Australia National Conference
(Alice Springs [Mparntwe],  13-17 May 2019)

Combining elements of recent conferences that focused on Museums and galleries in their cultural landscapes (Brisbane 2017) and Museums and galleries as agents of change (Melbourne 2018), in 2019 Museums Galleries Australia travels to the geographical centre of the nation to tackle some of the biggest thematic areas that occupy much of the national conversation. More information

Professional development

Summer scholarships

Could you be one of the National Library of Australia's 2019 Summer Scholars? Apply now for the chance to work in-depth with the National Library’s world-class collections. Annual summer scholarships support younger scholars and a scholar from rural or regional Australia undertaking postgraduate research, who require special access to the Library’s collections.Scholars spend six weeks at the Library, commencing in the second week of January each year. They have privileged access to the Library’s materials and facilities, as well as sustained interaction with Library staff. More information

Museums Australia Victoria

A range of museum professional development programs are conducted by Museums Australia Victoria. September offerings include Roving curator program information session and Programing for museums and galleries

Local news

Image courtesy of Historic Houses Trust: Jack Mundy and Green Ban demonstration

Historic Houses Association turns 30

It has been three decades since the Historic Houses Association of Australia (HHA) incorporated under the name Friends of the Historic Houses Trust. Over that time, it has saved historic properties, drawn attention to the most pressing heritage issues of the time and promoted greater understanding of the importance of our shared built heritage. Based in Sydney, the HHA celebrated its 30th anniversary with a grassroots event on Saturday 1 September at the Abraham Mott Hall in The Rocks, Sydney.
More information

Connection & recollection

August was National Family History Month in Australia. Dr Sherene Suchy writes that she was honoured to be part of this celebration with a presentation about estate planning, provenance, and heirlooms with heritage at the Goulburn Mulwarree Library. Sherene noticed a familiar face in the audience which led to a conversation about the Kenmore Hospital Museum (2000-2011). Leone Morgan had been a nurse at Kenmore and ran tours of the museum. The Museum closed in 2011. The collection went to various national, state, and regional museums. Monies remaining were given to the mental health and education sector. Leonie said, 'I still get on average, an e-mail or phone call weekly enquiring as to the next tour or when is the museum open?' Our conversation prompted reflections on a chapter contributed to Leading with passion: Museum philosophy for the 21st century museum about the importance of museums as places for memory making.



ICOM Australia Chair Alec Coles

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, in this newsletter, 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!

ICOM Australia election 2018

Get involved - election to Board

Nominations are open for election to the ICOM Australia Executive Board. If you have a passion for museums, and bring skills, insight and experience, then a stint on the ICOM Australia Executive Board could be for you. Nominations close on 16 March 2018. More


ICOM Australia AGM 2018


The annual gathering of ICOM Australia members, our Annual General Meeting, will take place at 12.45 on Tuesday 5 June at the Meat Market, during the Museums Galleries Australia conference. It’s a great chance to meet your new Board and fellow ICOM members, as well as vote to make a difference. More


 ICOM Australia bursaries 2018

Short of cash?

Need help to get to an ICOM event? The ICOM Australia bursary program supports members to attend ICOM committee meetings, ICOM conferences and other related professional development opportunities.Three bursaries up to $1000 each are available. Applications for the 2018 round close on 30 April 2018. More

ICOM Australia Awards 2018

Nominations open!

Do you know someone in the museums and galleries sector who should be celebrated for their outstanding work?  Or an institution that should be lauded for their innovation?

Each year the ICOM Australia Awards recognise the significant contributions of individuals and institutions in the sector.  There are two awards: Institutional Achievement and Individual Achievement.

The Awards for 2018 will be presented at the Museums Galleries Australia conference in Melbourne, 4-7 June 2018, and will recognise work completed from January to December 2017.

Nominations due by 30 Apr 2018. Who will you nominate?  Background information


ICOM is reviewing engagement and effectiveness of its international committees. We encourage all Members to take 5 minutes to complete an online survey to provide us with information to feed back to the ICOM Secretariat in Paris. Survey


ICOM Australia International Museum Day 2018 

International Museum Day

Get involved in this year’s International Museum Day, Friday 18 May 2018. The theme this year is Hyper-connected Museums: New Approaches, New Publics – an ideal topic for a conversation, panel or lecture. Register your event on the ICOM international website for world-wide audience! More

Student essay competition

Are you a current museums studies or cultural heritage student? Interested in winning a one-year student membership of ICOM Australia? We’re marking International Museum Day with a student essay competition. You’re invited to write a 2000-word essay on the International Museum Day topic Hyper-connected museums: new approaches, new publics. Win an annual ICOM membership and a $150 book voucher. Entries close on 1 May 2018. The winner will be announced on 18 May. More


Museums Galleries Australia 2018 conference

Conference news

ICOM Australia is pleased to again be sponsoring a plenary speaker at the 2018 Museums Galleries Australia conference: Angelita Teo, Director National Museum of Singapore. We’re also announcing the winners of the ICOM Australia Awards at the glittering conference dinner. And of course don’t miss our AGM on at 12.45 on Tuesday 5 June at the conference venue, the Meat Market in North Melbourne. More


ICOM General Assembly

ICOM General Assembly

Representatives of every body within ICOM will gather 6-8 June 2018 at the UNESCO building in Paris for annual meetings and the ICOM General Assembly. ICOM Australia is usually represented by the Chair or Vice-Chair of the Executive Board. The General Assembly is ICOM’s forum for decision making, electing members of the Executive Council, making resolutions, setting rules and ratifying ICOM’s Stategic Plan. More

ICOM International Training Centre for Museum Studies ICOM-ITC

Introducing ICOM-ITC

The ICOM International Training Centre for Museum Studies (ICOM-ITC) is an international training initiative based at the Palace Museum in Beijing, China. Inaugurated in 2013, it promotes research and exchange among museums at an international level and develop the museum expertise of professionals from developing countries, especially those from the Asia-Pacific region.

ICOM-ITC offers week-long training workshops twice-yearly to students from around the world. Grants are offered to support attendance. ICOM-ITC is a collaboration between ICOM, ICOM China and the Palace Museum. The operation and management of the centre is conducted by the Palace Museum.

Deborah Tout-Smith, Vice-Chair of the ICOM Australia Executive Board, is a member of the ICOM-ITC Program Committee, which guides course content and student selection. Professor Hans-Martin Hinz, Germany, is President of the Program Committee. More


ICOM Australia Pacific Partners Program Fiji February 2018

Museum education in the Pacific workshop

ICOM Australia recently enabled Dr Jenny Newell, Manager of the Pacific & International Collection at the Australian Museum to participate in a highly valuable Commonwealth Association of Museums (CAM) workshop in Suva, Fiji in February. ICOM Australia provided financial support through its Partnerships Program, supporting organisations and communities in Australia’s neighbouring regions by providing skills and resources, underpinned by an exchange of expertise. More

ICOM Australia Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum digitisation project

Digitisation at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

University of Melbourne academic Dr Rachel Hughes has recently completed a joint digitisation project with Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia, focussing on the museum’s visitor books from 1979-1993. Some 1500 pages of visitor comments have been added to the museum's archive and may provide materials for the 40th anniversary exhibition of the museum in 2019.

Dr Hughes’ research focusses on the early years of the museum’s operation, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in January 1979. Visitor book comments from this time are written in many languages, including Khmer, English, Russian, Vietnamese, French, Lao, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese and German. Comments are lengthy, formal, impassioned and usually offered on behalf of fellow citizens or members of political organisations.

Today Tuol Sleng is listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, and is one of the most visited museums in Southeast Asia. More   Rachel Hughes


ICOM Australia CAUMAC symposium

Reframing university collections – research infrastructure 2018 CAUMAC symposium

The Council of Australian University Museums and Collections (CAUMAC) is currently calling for proposals for our symposium to be held at the Australian National University on April 6, 2018. The symposium asks the following questions:

  • How have universities dealt with the issue of legacy collections?
  • What are the advantages and pitfalls of valuing legacy collections based on their potential for new research?
  • How do you manage a collection to be ready for research that might currently be unforeseeable?
  • What does this mean for collections whose research potential is unknown?

The thoughts of university curators, researchers, professional staff, administrative staff, university leaders and students who would like to help shape our thinking on this issue are welcome. We are also interested in examples from your area of expertise.

The symposium is one of a series designed to develop a better understanding of the Australian Higher Education collecting sector in the lead up to the UMAC (ICOM’s International Committee for university museums and collections) 2020 conference at the University of Sydney. More   Andrew Simpson




 ICOM Australia Chair Alec Coles

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).

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.  More

ICOM Australia 2018 membership renewals

2018 membership renewals

ICOM Australia membership renewals for 2018 are due. You can renew online, manually or by phone. More

ICOM Australia IRIS database

New members' database

A new ICOM international database – IRIS – is to be launched soon. It is mandatory for all National Committees to use IRIS which will replace existing databases.

IRIS aims to enhance organisational effectiveness and international communication.

ICOM Australia is will be adopting IRIS in 2018.

Blue Shield Australia symposium

All members of ICOM Australia are invited to attend Blue Shield Australia's 2018 symposium Cultural heritage, climate change and natural disasters.

ICOM Australia is a founding pillar member of Blue Shield Australia. Blue Shield, the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross, is an international committee working to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by armed conflict and natural disasters.

Registrations are open and the symposium will be held in Canberra 29-30 January at the National Library of Australia. More

ICOM Australia election 2018

2018 election - nominations open

2018 is an election year for the Executive Board of ICOM Australia. As agreed at the 2017 AGM, new rules of procedure will come into effect. These include:

  • the implementation of a fixed number of eleven members of the Executive (five officers and six general members)
  • the implementation of a two year term of office for Executive Board members.

Any ICOM Australia individual member or nominated-delegate of an institutional-member can participate.

To enable an open and transparent transition there is a revised nomination and election process. More

ICOM Australia bursaries 2017

2017 bursary recipients

Three ICOM Australia Individual Members attended ICOM Committee Conferences in Denmark, Finland and the UK with Bursary support from ICOM Australia in 2017.

Roger Leong, Senior Curator, Museum of Applied Arts of Sciences, attended the ICOM Costume Annual Meeting & Symposium in London. The theme was The Narrative Power of Clothes and Roger gave a paper that told the story of Sheila Scotter, one of Australia’s pioneering fashion identities, to attendees from Africa, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, North and South America.  For Roger the conference ‘exceeded my expectations in all aspects’.

Dr Ian MacLeod attended the ICOM Committee for Conservation, Triennial Conference in Denmark.  Ian is a Member of the Conservation Committee and gave a presentation that included the development of new in-situ degradation methods for studying rock art in the Burrap.   He also reported that the plenary lectures from the conference will be available on the ICOM-CC website.

Ian MacLeod was awarded the ICOM-CC Triennial medal for his life long contribution to the work of the committee and ICOM Australia offers our congratulations.

Dr Andrew Simpson attended the 17th Annual ICOM Committee for University Museums and Collections in Finland.  Andrew is a member of UMAC Board and participating in the research project on ‘Professionalising museum work in higher education: a global approach’ and chairs the working group to transform the UMAC Journal into a recognised academic journal.  A significant outcome of the conference was the success of Australia’s bid to host the 2020 UMAC Annual Meeting at the new Chau Chak Wing Museum University of Sydney currently being built.

ICOM Australia Awards 2018

Nominations open soon!

Do you know someone in the museums and galleries sector who should be celebrated for their outstanding work?  Or an institution that should be lauded for their innovation?

Each year the ICOM Australia Awards recognise the significant contributions of individuals and institutions in the sector.  There are two awards: Institutional Achievement and Individual Achievement.

The Awards for 2018 will be presented at the Museums Galleries Australia conference in Melbourne, 4-7 June 2018, and will recognise work completed from January to December 2017.

Nominations will open soon! Who will you nominate?  Background information


Museums Galleries Australia 2018 conference

MGA national conference 2018

Registrations are open for the 2018 national conference of Museums Galleries Australia. The conference theme is Agents of change and will be held in Melbourne 4-7 June 2018. More