Blue Shield Australia symposium

Blue Shield Australia Symposium 2018

Registrations are now open for the 2018 Blue Shield Australia symposium Cultural heritage, climate change and natural disasters. More

Vale Don McMichael

ICOM Australia Don McMichael

We note with sadness the death on 10 Jun 2017 of Dr Don McMichael, long term Australian museum professional and advocate. Don made a remarkable contribution to both the Australian and international museum community. More

ICOM, NSW, MGA and the New World Order

Summary of recent developments by Alec Coles (Chair, ICOM Australia)

Forgive the acronym soup – which is supposed to be ironic. These are interesting times for ICOM Australia in just about every sense. It seems there are challenges and opportunities wherever we look.

Funding continues to be tight and getting hold of it increasingly competitive. I think that most people welcome the compromise on the Australia Council/Catalyst funding which returned much of funding to the Australia Council to support its work, but retained some catalyst funding which can be accessed by museums.
At the same time, there are increasing opportunities to mainstream the work that we do and increase its relevance.

National Roadmap for Research Infrastructure

Over the last year we have provided comment and advice on the National Roadmap for Research Infrastructure and I am delighted that, not only, is the Roadmap now published, but it includes some important proposals that will impact and upon and provide opportunities for our sector.
Particularly gratifying has been the focus on the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences through the understanding Culture and Communities strand.  It is arguably the first time that ‘HASS’ has received such attention and focus and this should be of great encouragement to our sector.

I have listed some of the priority areas relevant to our sector in the following table:

Platforms for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS)

Integrated and coordinated HASS platform: Explore integration of networks for coordinated access to physical collections and digital materials enabling the digitisation of priority specimens across all collecting institutions. This could include the sharing of digitisation infrastructure and standardisation of best practice for processes and interoperability with international research infrastructures.

Harmonised platforms for Indigenous research: Explore integration of existing institutional level capabilities across a range of data platforms: AIATSIS, ATSIDA PARADISEC, and NCIG linked to wider platform for integration across all digital collections and portals

Harmonised platforms for social sciences research:  Explore integration of social sciences data from multiple sources together with tools for analysis and visualisation. This should be linked to the broader integrated and coordinated approach to a HASS platform.

Maintain priority of the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network

Earth and Environmental Systems

Maintain priority for new biodiversity data streams to be integrated with existing environmental data platforms such as the Atlas of Living Australia.


Enhance the capability and network of existing biosecurity testing facilities, including virtual laboratories and research communities.

Complex Biology

Networked bio banks : Explore opportunities to establish a national network to coordinate and enhance current biobank capability.

You can access the whole Roadmap:  here

Review of Museums in New South Wales

ICOM Australia provided a response to this important review following discussions with key colleagues in New South Wales.  Indeed, we were quoted in the Sydney Morning herald in relation to our comments on efficiency dividends.
At the time of writing, the Review has still not been completed, however, it is fair to say that it was rather hijacked by the debate around the relocation of the Museum of Applied Art and Science from its Powerhouse site in Ultimo. With respect to this, there seems to be some reflection on this proposal and ICOM Australia welcomes this opportunity for all parties to take stock and consider the options available.

Museums and Galleries Australia (aka Museums Australia in some states)

ICOM Australia has looked on with some disappointment at the schism that appears to have occurred between some art galleries and MGA. There are many reasons for this and it is not for me to comment other than to reiterate something that I said at the MGA Conference which is that this is an unfortunate distraction at a time when we should be working together in a concerted way to demonstrate the unity and purpose of our sector.

Having said this, the MGA Annual Conference in Brisbane was a great success and particularly so for ICOM Australia.  We were front and centre from the outset with our sponsored session by John Ryan of Local Projects not only opening the conference, but proving to be one of the most successful and engaging sessions.

Essay winner

ICOM Australia International Museum Day 2017

Justin Croft has won the inaugural ICOM Australia International Museum Day student essay competition. More

Winners announced

Hetti Perkins and the Campbelltown Arts Centre have received prestigious ICOM Australia awards. More

Report on ICOM’s 24th General Conference in Milano, 3-9 July 2016

by Robin Hirst (Chair, ICOM Australia, 2010-2016)

Photo courtesy of Robin Hirst - Castello Sforzesco opening party

The gathering of the ICOM members from across the globe sees old friends enthusiastically greeting each other and first timers standing back apprehensively, just part of the 3500 plus gathering that took over the northern Italian city.  By the end of the week the first timers will feel part of the ICOM family. The best of Milan’s heritage was there to be experienced with receptions and concerts each balmy evening. The Opening Party was held at the Castello Sforzesco, where the castle gates were opened to welcome the delegates, all keen to exchange views and learn something new.

Whilst the conference itself brought many quality speakers and fascinating sessions which showed the diversity of museums and their particular specialities, the wonderful thing about ICOM conferences is the way the organizing committees manage to arrange visits and events that are exceptional. A concert for ICOM guests in the Duomo was breathtaking. The programme featured organ and brass which, in the highly decorated cathedral was truly mesmerizing. As this was the days just after the Brexit vote, Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March Number 1, was particularly poignant. It is almost impossible to listen to this music without “Land of hope and glory, mother of the free” coming straight to mind. Brexit references permeated the conference.

On the first day of the conference, a keynote address was presented by the artist Christo, who had recently created the Floating Piers in the nearby Lake Iseo in Lombardy. He gave a frank account of his art and his business model. In short he creates what he wants and sells his designs and drawings to pay for the next project. Orham Pamuk spoke about his Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, created after his Nobel Prize for Literature novel The Museum of Innocence.  David Throsby, an Australian economist looked at Museums in the New Economy, exploring issues of value and valuation. He emphasized the ‘non-use’ value of collections. It could be of greater value that the standard valuation of collections. It is the value the community puts on the collection even though it is not necessarily accessed or used. I was also proud to be part of a plenary panel discussing “Social Role of Museums: New migrations, new challenges.”

Photos courtesy of Robin Hirst

At the beginning and end of the ICOM conference, time is set aside for meetings of the Advisory Committee, which constitutes representatives of both the National Committees of ICOM and the International Committees.  Alex Marsden, National Director of Museums and Galleries Australia, joined me as part of the Australian delegation. At a meeting of the National Committee I presented on ICOM Australia’s work to date on a history of ICOM Australia to coincide with the 70th anniversary of ICOM. Australia was one of the fourteen founders when ICOM was established in 1946.

A stand out moment at the Advisory Committee was to watch Bernice Murphy receiving an Honorary Membership of ICOM. ICOM Australia had nominated her for the award for years of dedicated service and her contribution in relation to ethics. This also happily coincided with the publication of ICOM’s Museums, Ethics and Cultural Heritage –which Bernice edited and on which she presented in the conference.

At the Advisory Committee meeting important work was done with the adoption of the ICOM Strategic Plan, approval of changes to the ICOM Statutes, the election of the new President, Vice Presidents and members of the Executive Board. Congratulations especially to our own Vinod Daniel who was elected to the board and to Carol Scott (formerly from the Powerhouse Museum) who represents UK.

The week in Milan was an extraordinary time.  ICOM’s 25th General Conference will be Kyoto in September 2019 and this city, I am sure, will put on an extraordinary show. Start saving now. No jet lag for us and cheaper than Europe or the USA.


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