Catherine McDermott, ICOM UK Committee Member, interviewed Klaus Staubermann, CEO of ICOM Germany.
CMD: Would you give our ICOM UK members some background to ICOM Germany?
KS: With over 6000 members ICOM Germany is ICOM’s largest National Committee. We currently share offices in an historic 1924 Villa, formerly the home of the president if the Prussian Heritage Foundation, which is now the National Institute of Museum Research and which we share with the German Museum Association.
CMD: What have been the main challenges?
KS: In the 1990s the reunification of Germany, bringing together East and West, was a challenging process for the German museum sector. I think it would be fair to say the two ICOM Germany committees during that period experienced difficulties building up a shared agenda based on mutual respect and understanding.
CMD: What are the ICOM Germany’s recent achievements?
KS: We have worked hard to establish gender equality on our committee and to open up the membership and to streamline our governance. We want to respond to political change and to use museums to engage with controversy and enable conflicting views.
CMD: Can you give us an example of a current project?
KS: Our November conference, together with ICOM EUROPE, marks the end of WW1 and explores the difficult and complex issues of its legacy. The projects we have invited through ICOM UK are, for example, the re-evaluation of the forgotten Chinese Corps.
CMD: What are ICOM Germany’s current priorities?
KS: We want to support collaboration across national and international committees and between national committees such as ICOM UK and Germany. One step forward is to host the ICOM EUROPE conference and to foster shared ideas and planning opportunities.
CMD: What about emerging professionals and student members?
KS: We focus on student membership to ICOM accredited courses, for example, in museum studies. And we facilitate dialogue between students and professionals through university visits facilitated by our staff. One initiative is our Advocate programme where senior ICOM members will host networking event that will bring together experienced ICOM members and emerging professionals and student members and encourage them to become more active internationally.
CMD: What is your experience of students’ key interests?
KS: They prioritise career planning, fair contracts and they want to see a strong political agenda within ICOM Germany in terms of our events and discussion topics. Our students are quite vocal about their demands and expectations, including through social media, which we appreciate.
CMD: Any further thoughts?
KS: We are using more outspoken political tweets and Facebook contributions to give us a stronger voice nationally and internationally on human rights, social cohesion and cultural challenges. Museums have been reluctant to engage with these vital issues and I want ICOM Germany to help change this.
Klaus Staubermann holds a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Dibner Institutefor the History of Science and Technology at M.I.T. He held posts of Curator and Researcher at Utrecht University Museum and senior science staff member at the Berlin Technology Museum before becoming a Principal Curator at National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh. Since April this year he is the CEO of ICOM Germany.