3rd General Conference of the International Council of Museums, Cidade das Artes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 10 – 17 August 2013 https://www.icomrio2013.org.br/
Engaging with audiences and colleagues from across the world is a crucial aspect of our work at the V&A, and Latin America has recently been added as one of our key international priorities. With the conference taking place in Rio, it was a unique opportunity for me to meet colleagues from Brazilian museums and to develop a deeper appreciation of the priorities and challenges for museums in Brazil. I hoped to develop a greater understanding of how the V&A could work more closely with Brazilian museums in the future, especially on temporary exhibitions.
With an extensive network of public and private museums in Brazil, there are certainly opportunities for the V&A to develop its work with partners in Brazil. The main challenge I see is securing funding to realise projects and the complex mix of public and private funding. Continuing to develop projects and our contacts in Brazil, and being ready to work with protracted or very short schedules, will ensure the V&A remains at the forefront of UK/Brazil cultural partnerships. The British Council will be a key contact for the V&A’s work in Brazil over the coming years.
I was disappointed that the majority of ICEE delegates were from Europe and North America, so most of the new Brazilian contacts I made came from the British Council organised networking event, museum and studio visits, and meetings I organised independently of the conference. I recommend the V&A continues its high profile presence at ICOM conferences and international committee meetings, and encourages contacts from its extensive geographical network to join and actively participate in ICOM committees.
Attending the conference was a wonderful professional experience, and I certainly feel I now have a better idea of how museums operate (and how things generally do, or sometimes don’t, work) in Brazil. I return to London with an extended network of international contacts, and a keen interest to follow Brazil and its cultural scene as this diverse country plays an increasingly visible and important role in a global context.
General Conference Theme
The theme of this year’s conference was Museums (memory + creativity) = social change , which was defined by ICOM as "showing that the richness of our historical heritage, preserved and displayed by museums, together with the inventiveness and vitality that have characterised the museum sector's action in recent years, are where the strength of museum institutions lies today."
The V&A is a corporate member of ICOM’s International Committee for Museums and Collections of Decorative Arts and Design (ICDAD). Thanks to a bursary of £1,500 from ICOM UK and the British Council, with additional financial support from the V&A, I attended the conference as a member of the ICEE (International Committee for Exhibition Exchange).
Other V&A delegates were Julius Bryant, Keeper of the Word & Image Department (member of ICDAD and DEMHIST – International Committee for Historic House Museums) and Filipa Alves de Sousa (member of CECA – International Committee for Education and Cultural Action).
I gave two presentations - one on V&A Touring Exhibitions at the ICEE Marketplace and another on David Bowie is at the ICEE session on ‘Public-private partnerships in Exhibition Projects’. Each presentation was attended by approximately 20 people and V&A Touring Exhibition documents, promoting the Museum’s touring programme, were available for delegates to take away. The commitment to deliver presentations at more than one committee session meant a lack of flexibility to attend sessions organised by other committee groups. I therefore made an extra effort to network outside of the ICEE sessions, which made targeted networking among 3,00o people more difficult and relied more on chance meetings with relevant people, or on introductions.
The overall theme for the ICEE session was The Social Effect of a Shift in Public-Private Partnerships in Museums , which was introduced by Dr. Anne-Catherine Hauglustaine-Robert, ICEE President, Head of Co-ordination Jardin des Sciences, University of Strasbourg, France.
It was noted that private exhibition making companies now comprise about half of the ICEE membership but that the group wishes to retain a balanced membership of public institutions and private companies. The trend appears to be for private companies to offer part of what is required for making an exhibition, leading to multiple public and private partners working together to fundraise and realise project ambitions. It’s more ‘I have this idea, how can we work together and involve other partners to achieve what we are aiming for?’ rather than ‘I have this exhibition, do you want it?’
Session 1: Sponsoring and Fundraising for Museums: The (Dis)Advantage of Special Relationships
The only speaker at this session was Pauli Sivonen from the Serlachius Museums (Finland). Pauli gave three examples of different funding models for museums in Finland. It was interesting to note that Heureka operate a similar touring model to the Barbican in that they created a separate Ltd. company to manage touring exhibitions and generate income.
Pauli noted that sponsors in Finland prefer to sponsor sports or the larger art museums, making it more difficult for smaller museums to fundraise. This is often true in many parts of the world, including the UK. He also noted that Finnish museums are not generally engaged in large scale, multi-partner projects and have quite a conservative approach. Museums prefer to do their own projects, with their own collections and expertise. His closing comment was that it is not always about money but also attitude, which might also apply when exploring and entering into new partnerships or trying to find new ways of working and fundraising.
The questions and comments at the session touched on working with other museums to share initial exhibition start-up costs; making it clear to sponsors what the benefits are to them and how they can make the most of them; and how the Ltd. company set up works in the context of a public institution.
Study tour: behind the scenes at Rio area museums
There were organised visits to MAM and Casa Daros. These were not behind the scenes tours but visits outside of public hours with introductions from the curators at each museum.
Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM) http://www.mamrio.com.br
Casa Daros Latinamerica http://www.casadaros.net/index_rio.php?i=1135
Neither museum would be an obvious partner for V&A exhibitions because MAM’s programme focuses on contemporary art and Casa Daros only displays exhibitions of Latinamerican art. It was interesting to visit an established museum (MAM) and one that only opened a few months ago (Casa Daros) as the innovative education programme and enhanced visitor experience at Casa Daros appears to be raising the bar for museums in Rio. This might reflect the different funding model of each museum.
Session 2: Coping with Lower Budgets / Maximising the Benefits of Creating Exhibitions
Robert “Mac” West of Informal Learning Experiences Inc. (USA) spoke about how museums in the USA have responded to the financial crisis and coping with lower budgets. There was a strong emphasis on cuts (to staff and budgets) and in extreme cases, consideration to selling collections. Mac noted that organisers are losing exhibition bookings and have slots to fill at short notice. There was limited mention of ways US museums were trying to maximise and find new income streams.
Anne-Marie Raymond, Head of Exhibition Planning at the Canadian Museum of Civilization spoke about finding opportunities to maximise resources. Her presentation covered the major changes taking place at the CMC and the strategies being put in place to see the museum through the transition. These included new and innovative ways of working; trying to build capacity to cope with the pressure on human and financial resources; bridging the gap when the permanent exhibition is being re-worked with temporary exhibitions; managing expectations (internal and external); operating under increasing scrutiny from the public and authorities.
Amanda Mayne, International Engagement Manager at the British Museum (UK) spoke about repurposing exhibitions for tour. She used A History of the World in 100 Objects as a case study to highlight the process and challenges of making a radio based programme, with no physical display at the BM, into a touring exhibition. Amanda also noted how some of these ideas and processes could be adopted by smaller museums wishing to generate touring exhibitions.
Presentation of Exhibitions Website Platform – www.platformexhibitions.org Han Meeter, Reinwardt Academy, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Han Meeter presented a website providing an online tool for making exhibitions, from museum exhibitions to commercial exhibition stands. It is designed as a project management tool to guide professionals, students and volunteers through the project management process.
The site is currently under development, with sections in Dutch and English. The Dutch version of the site is due for completion in 6 months and there will be a membership fee of approximately €20.
Presentation of the forthcoming Touring Exhibitions Meeting in Berlin http://www.touringexhibitions.org/Christoph Scholz, Semmel Concerts, Germany
The Touring Exhibitions Meeting (TEM) is the second conference initiated by the German entertainment event agency Semmel Concerts (producers of the Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures exhibition) in cooperation with the Finnish production company John Nurminen Events (producers of Nasa – The Exhibition ). TEM is a non-profit event although the organisers and majority of the delegates are commercial exhibition making companies.
I gave a 20 minute presentation, with questions, on David Bowie is as a case study for public-private partnerships on exhibitions. The presentation was well received but there was no panel discussion.
I visited the following museums and venues during my stay in Rio. Further information can be found in the Rio Museums Guide (published August 2013) and the websites for each museum.
MAM - http://www.mamrio.com.br/
Casa Daros Latinamerica - http://www.casadaros.net/
Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR) - http://www.museudeartedorio.org.br/
Other meetings, events, general observations
The British Council and Oi Futuro hosted a networking event at Oi Futuro (http://www.oifuturo.org.br/) on Friday 16 August. The event was lively and well attended by relevant British and Brazilian professionals from the cultural sector and government organisations. This was the best organised and relevant networking event I attended during my visit, and I met a number of important contacts from the UK and Brazil in terms of current and future projects.
I also met with two exhibition organising companies in Rio regarding the scope of work required for an exhibition the V&A is presenting in 2016 in London. This had a broader benefit in that I was able to ask questions and understand the integral role such organisations play in realising temporary exhibitions with Brazilian museums.