ⓘ International Committee for Museology. ICOFOM, the International Committee for Museology of the International Council of Museums was founded in 1977 at the init ..


ⓘ International Committee for Museology

ICOFOM, the International Committee for Museology of the International Council of Museums was founded in 1977 at the initiative of Jan Jelinek, in order to promote research and theoretical thinking within the museum world. This committee became one of the most popular in International Council of Museums. It addresses the study of the theoretical foundation that guides museum activities around the world or, more generally, the analysis of the different forms that museums can have. The committee includes several hundred museologists from all over the world, organizes yearly symposia and publishes, among other monographs, the annual journal ICOFOM Study Series, available online.


1. Origins

The work of the International Council of Museums ICOM, begun in 1946, was based on much older programmes, specifically professional symposia, journals of national associations, and of course the work of the International Office of Museums, founded in 1926 by the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation, located in Paris. A large part of the research which grew out of these associations, as with international committees, focused on objectives relating to concrete professional concerns. In 1968 ICOM launched an international committee for the training of museum professionals ICTOP at a time when museum training courses were gaining popularity, in particular in Brno, Czechoslovakia 1963, Leicester, UK 1966 and Paris 1970. On the other hand, the development of specific theories linked to the museum phenomenon – long referred to as "museography", which became "museology" after WWII – was not a research interest for most museum professionals. Nevertheless, this field was particularly interesting for some researchers and university professors, in particular in Eastern European countries, first of all Jan Jelinek who was director of the Antropos Museum in Brno and president of ICOM. The International Committee for Museology was founded in 1977 at the General Conference of ICOM in Moscow. Its first president was Jan Jelinek Vinos Sofka succeeded him in 1981. Since that date we can say that three generations of museologists have continued to pursue the work of ICOFOM.


2. Three generations of museologists

Museology was already developed in Eastern Europe at the time of the cold war. From the start ICOFOM would be a unique international platform that included researchers from both sides of the Iron Curtain, who were trying to set up museology as an autonomous discipline: without this independent status museology could not be taught in universities in Eastern countries, making this task a challenge of singular importance in the countries of the Warsaw Pact. The iconic personalities of museology, such as Georges Henri Riviere, and especially Andre Desvallees in France, worked at the same time as influential museologists in the Eastern bloc, among whom are Avram Razgon URSS, Klaus Schreiner DDR, Jiei Neustupny Czechoslovakia, Josef Benes Czechoslovakia, Wojciech Gluzinski Poland, and especially Zbynek Stransky Czechoslovakia. The stated aim of ICOFOM, under the dynamic leadership of Vinos Sofka Sweden, was to make an inventory of the different trends in museology throughout the world, and to develop this discipline in order to endow it with the status of science within the academic structure. At the beginning this essentially theoretical approach disconcerted many museum researchers who were much more pragmatic, for example George Ellis Burcaw, author of an influential manual on museum work in the United States. Additionally, the climate of the cold war, which was still going on, did not help in creating closer links between the two sides. On the other hand, many researchers from Latin countries, in particular Waldisia Russio Brazil, are especially attracted to this approach.

Much enlarged new definitions of museology emerged, whose object of study reaches beyond the museum itself. The museum institution per se, the concept of museum as opposed to the specific museum, such as the Prado,is relatively recent, and what interests museologists is a specific attitude which led to the creation of museums, as well as cabinets of curiosity, or in the future new forms linked to digital technologies Virtual museums: As already defined by the Czech museologist Anna Gregorova in 1980 "Museology is a science studying the specific relation of man to reality, consisting in purposeful and systematic collecting and conservation of selected inanimate material, mobile, and mainly three-dimensional objects documenting the development of nature and society" and "the museum is an institution which applies and carries out the specific relation of man to reality". From this point of view, which allowed for better describing the particular activity of selecting and describing an object in a museum – a phenomenon not too far from a sacred act – more specific concepts were developed, such as musealisation, a term used more in French and Spanish than in English, the act of introducing an object into a museum context, and museality the special value of the object which determines its musealisation. Zbynek Stransky, the Czech museologist, was of major importance in this development, through his involvement in ICOFOM and also through the International Summer School of Museology, which he founded in Brno in 1987.

Following this first generation of ICOFOM researchers, under the eight year presidency of Vinos Sofka, came a second, more diverse group of researchers. A leading member of this generation was Peter van Mensch Netherlands, author of a 1992 doctoral thesis on museology as a scientific discipline: Towards a Methodology of Museology, who followed Sofka as President of ICOFOM. Other outstanding museologists in this generation were Ivo Maroevic Croatia, Bernard Deloche and Mathilde Bellaigue France, Martin Schaerer Switzerland, as well as Teresa Scheiner Brazil, Tomislav Sola Croatia and Nelly Decarolis Argentina. Alpha Oumar Konare, Mali, who was particularly attentive to the development of new museology, had a remarkable career: he was elected President of ICOM in 1989, but did not renew his mandate when he became President of Mali in 1992.

Broader definitions of the museum phenomenon began at this time, in particular one by Judith Spielbauer:" The established museum is a means to an end, not the end itself. These ends have been stated in many ways. They include varying perspectives on broadening an individual’s perception of the interdependence of the social, aesthetic and natural worlds in which he lives by providing information and experience and fostering an understanding of self within this widening context. The increase and dissemination of knowledge, the improvement of the quality of life, and preservation for future generations are all included in the usual parades of rationales.” Other thinkers, such as Jennifer Harris and Kerstin Smeds, further expanded the definitions and added provocative nuances.

A third generation, schooled in museology by the second one, gradually joined the work of researchers: in particular one can note Wanchen Chang Taiwan and Bruno Brulon Soares Brazil. They all share a global vision of museology founded on critical thinking about the development of museums in the world and on the values that form the conditions for museum work. For the past thirty years the museum has undergone considerable changes, whether becoming more market oriented which has been the case in many countries, museums relationship to collections, which is endlessly altered, and of course digital technologies whose development has transformed our way of seeing the world. In the light of this evolution of the museum world, it is important to understand and to prepare for the possible evolution of the museum itself.


3. Museology today and the work of ICOFOM

Today museology – as seen by ICOFOM – can be defined as "comprising all the efforts at theorization and critical thinking about the museum field". This vision, intentionally very broad, collects trends of thought that are often conflicting as they are linked to critical thinkers in different parts of the world, whether Benjamin Ives Gilman or Georges Brown Goode, John Cotton Dana or Joseph Veach Noble, and, more currently, Duncan F. Cameron, Neil Postman, Georges Henri Riviere, Zbynek Stransky, Andre Desvallees, Stephen Weil or Roland Arpin. ICOFOM is harnessed to this work of research and synthesis, and strives to compile an inventory of the different ways to conceive of museums and museology and to generate, through these syntheses, the trends that emerge from the vast flux of change in the museum field. Within ICOFOM most working researchers teach at universities after having spent part of their career in a museum or while continuing museum work at the same time. Presently there are about 700 members in the committee, of whom about 60% are from European countries and more than 20% live in Latin America.

ICOFOM is known for its expansion into parts of the world where museums are rapidly developing. In this regard, Nelly Decarolis and Tereza Scheiner started and sustained a subcommittee, ICOFOM LAM, or ICOFOM Latin America. The great success of this subcommittee prompted the formation of ICOFOM ASPAC, ICOFOM Asia and the South Pacific, under the strong leadership of Olga Truevtseva and Hildegard Vieregg. Regional subcommittees such as these provide important support and training for those interested in the work of ICOFOM but who cannot always get to annual meetings. in distant parts of the world.

Right from the start publications were a major part of ICOFOM activities. The first issues of Museological Working Papers, published in 1980 and 1981, were followed by ICOFOM Study Series ISS published annually, which comprise in all several thousand pages and are available on line at the ICOFOM site. In general, ISS publishes papers presented at the ICOFOM symposiums. In 2007, the ICOFOM editorial committee installed a double-blind peer review of papers submitted for publication.

ICOFOM has also published syntheses of museology: What is a museum?, the translation into English of the French monograph Vers une redefiniton du musee, edited in the framework of discussions regarding a new definition of Museum by ICOM for its revised Statues in 2007. More recently, in 2010, ICOFOM edited Key Concepts of Museology, a summary that has been translated into 8 languages, of the major points of the Dictionnaire Encyclopedique de Museologie published in 2011. This encyclopaedic dictionary of 722 pages, with thematic articles and amply illustrated, is the result of work begun in ICOFOM in 1993.


4. List of ICOFOM Chairpersons

  • François Mairesse, 2013–2019
  • Peter van Mensch, 1989–1993
  • Ann Davis, 2010–2013
  • Jan Jelinek, 1977–1981
  • Vinos Sofka, 1981–1989
  • Tereza Scheiner, 1998–2001
  • Hildegard Vieregg, 2001–2007
  • Bruno Brulon Soares, 2019-
  • Nelly Decarolis, 2007–2010
  • Martin Schaerer, 1993–1998

Andre Desvallees is permanent advisor of ICOFOM and honorary member of ICOM

  • important way to museums, to the International Council of Museums and to its International Committee for Museology Her research interests include memorial
  • scientific museology Between the years 1960 and 1970, he was responsible for one of the first attempts to structure a theoretical basis for museology when
  • time she became an active member of the International Committee for Museology ICOFOM, created as a committee of ICOM in this same year. Waldisa Russio
  • 9 February 2016 was a museologist. He co - founded the International Committee for Museology ICOFOM in 1977 and served as its chairman and vice chair
  • Cultural Action CECA the ICOM International Committee for Training ICTOP and the International Committee for Museology ICOM the last of which he was
  • Studies 1986 Razgon was one of the founders of ICOM s International Committee for museology ICOFOM and from 1977 to 1983 was ICOFOM s Vice President
  • definition of several concepts, including New Museology An active member of the International Committee of Museology the ICOFOM, he is the author of a hundred
  • Memorial Museums ICMS - Museum Security ICR - Regional Museums ICOFOM - Museology ICOMAM - Arms Military History ICOM - CC - Conservation ICOMON - Money
  • see. - Key Concepts of Museology 2010 International Committee of Museums ICOM s International Committee of ICOM for Museology ICOFOM In his 1957
  • presentations on linguistics, ethnography, folkloristics, archaeology, history, museology literature, translation theory, sociology, law, music, mythology, regional
  • Post Graduate Institute of Archaeology in 2010, he obtained a Diploma in Museology He is vice president of the Sri Lanka Numismatic Society, and the Archaeological