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ICOM UK AGM, 5.30pm, Thursday 27 June 2019, London

The 2019 ICOM UK AGM will take place at 5.30pm on Thursday 27 June at the Barbican in London.

In addition to AGM business and updates from ICOM UK, members will have an opportunity to network over drinks and snacks, share their latest international projects and collaborations in short presentations, learn about the next round of travel grants and bursaries, and visit the Barbican Art Gallery’s latest exhibition.

We will also convene a meeting for Kyoto 2019 delegates to discuss coordinated activity during the conference in Japan.

The AGM programme, registration link and further information will be emailed to ICOM UK members on Friday 24 May and we will provide further updates in the ICOM UK news next week.

ICOM UK joins ‘Culture Declares Emergency’

ICOM UK joins other cultural organisations in declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency https://sites.google.com/view/culturedeclaresemergency/home. The ‘Culture Declares Emergency’ campaign launched on 3rd April 2019 with the aim of working with and supporting communities and local government in tackling this Emergency.

As representative of the global museum community, the vision of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is a world where the importance of natural and cultural heritage is universally valued. Today, more than ever, museums and their communities face unique challenges related to social, economic, and ecological issues. While serving as witnesses of the past and guardians of humanity’s treasures for future generations, museums play a key role in development through education and democratisation.

Museums offer an existing global infrastructure. They are uniquely placed to facilitate collective action by building networks, raising public awareness, and supporting research and knowledge creation. They can enhance sustainability and climate change education by working with and empowering communities to bring about change to ensure an habitable planet, social justice and equitable economic exchanges for the long term.

Through its Working Group on Sustainability, established in 2018, ICOM aims to mainstream the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement across its range of activities, and to support its members and member museums to contribute constructively in upholding the Sustainable Development Goals and towards climate change adaptation and mitigations.

ICOM UK now commits to the aims of ‘Culture Declares Emergency’. This includes communicating issues relating to climate change truthfully to enable citizens to understand the scale and urgency of systemic change. ICOM UK will work towards reducing our carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and assist our partners in reducing their emissions. ICOM UK will do what is possible to enable dialogue and expression amidst our communities about how the Emergency will affect them and the changes required.

Pest treatment using Nitrogen gas in the cultural heritage sector

Deterioration of cultural heritage objects from pest infestation is an ever-present problem. In recent decades, museums and cultural heritage institutions in Europe have turned away from potentially hazardous chemical pest control to an approach of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

IPM uses, amongst a combination of other methods, anoxia or modified/controlled atmospheres for treatment with a very low oxygen atmosphere in a chamber (static) or tent (dynamic) with the aim to eliminate insect infestations. Different modified/controlled atmospheres include inert gases (for example nitrogen, helium, argon and carbon dioxide), where nitrogen is the most frequently used gas.

The displacement of atmospheric oxygen is a well-established method. There is no equivalent alternative in terms of preservation care and human health, for both staff and visitors of cultural heritage institutions. The procedure is included in the European Standard EN 16790:2016 Conservation of Cultural Heritage – Integrated Pest Management for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

Many institutions have invested in their own treatment chambers for anoxic disinfestation, for both prophylactic and acute pest elimination. Unfortunately, with the extension of a mandatory registration of on-site generated nitrogen from September 2017 by REGULATION (EU) No 528/2012 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 May 2012, concerning the making available on the market and use of biocidal products (Biocidal Products Regulation, BPR), these facilities can no longer be operated legally.

As a result, the cultural heritage institutions are faced with the acute danger that cultural heritage may be damaged or irretrievably lost, or that traditional organo-chlorine biocides may experience an undeserved revival. Another alternative to nitrogen anoxia, carbon dioxide anoxia, is no longer supported on grounds of sustainability.

The nitrogen ban is not justified on grounds of health aspects. It is bad for the cultural heritage conservation community to have less choices for treatment interventions, with the anoxic treatment being among the most compatible with many materials and objects.

There are inconsistencies within the EU, for example the food industry has permission to use nitrogen gas for storage and preservation purposes, whereas the use of the same gas as a pest treatment is now not permitted.

Furthermore, different EU member states have interpreted the new directive in different ways, resulting in the institutions of at least two member states being permitted by their national authorities to continue to use nitrogen gas for pest treatment purposes, whereas in other member states the national authorities have been more restrictive in response to the new BPR.

In recent months, the confusion caused by the BPR, and the concern for cultural heritage at risk from pest damage, has created considerable debate at regional, national and international levels across the EU. A large number of professional heritage bodies from many different member states have published statements, lobbied national governments and written to EU institutions with the aim of repealing the classification of nitrogen as a biocidal active substance across the European Union.

On 12th March 2019, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) released a joint statement and called for the immediate repeal of the classification of nitrogen as a biocidal active substance for cultural heritage preservation applications across the EU (https://icom.museum/en/news/joint-statement-call-icom-icomos/). Jointly with our parent body, ICOM UK advocate for a solution in which the use of nitrogen for this specific purpose in cultural heritage preservation is ratified for the entire European Union, based on a repeal of the classification of nitrogen as a biocidal active substance.

International co-curating through Skype – how Manchester Museum created its Jallianwala Bagh massacre exhibition

This article was written by Adrian Murphy and first appeared in Museums+ Heritage Advisor online https://advisor.museumsandheritage.com/features/international-co-curating-skype-manchester-museum-created-jallianwala-bagh-massacre-exhibition/

Manchester Museum has recently opened its latest major exhibition, Jallianwala Bagh 1919: Punjab under Siege, which has seen it create an international partnership with The Partition Museum in Amritsar, India to curate the exhibition by using Skype and Google Drive

Using the internet, the two museums have managed to develop the six-month exhibition for under £30,000 and have demonstrated how an international collaboration can flourish through a series of scheduled video calls, online file transfers and the use of shared online documents

Manchester Museum’s exhibition is inspired by and uses information and images from The Partition Museum’s Punjab Under Siege – The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre Centenary (1919 -2019) exhibition, which opened on 11 August and is the result of its director, Esme Ward’s visit to the museum last year where she met the museum team.

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, which took place on 13 April 1919, is said to be a turning point in the fate of the British Empire after troops of the British Indian Army, under the command of Acting Brig-Gen Reginald Dyer, fired rifles into a crowd of Punjabis who had gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, Punjab resulting in the recorded deaths of 379 and more than 1,100 injured.

Last month Prime Minister Theresa May stated the British government’s ‘deep regret’ for the massacre calling it a “shameful scar on British Indian history”. However, no formal apology has ever been made.

Now the massacre is being remembered at Manchester Museum in an exhibition that explores how the British came to be in India, what led to the massacre, and its ramifications for the British Empire.

Manchester Museum is currently building a new South Asia Gallery in partnership with the British Museum and its director, Esme Ward received a grant from the British Council to visit India and pursue a youth exchange programme between Bangaluru and Manchester.

However, just before she left in late summer last year she met author, Lady Kishwar Desai at the British Library, who was involved in developing The Partition Museum, which opened in August 2017. Desai, whose books include, Jallianwala Bagh, 1919: The Real Story on which the exhibition is based, told Ward to visit the museum in Amritsar and see the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre displays.

“And of course, when she said it, I knew that this would be something we could explore as Manchester is commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre this year and Jallianwala Bagh happened 100 years later in 1919,” says Ward.

“I was thinking how museums in the UK could build different relationships with museums internationally and what that looks like. Often this revolves around a touring exhibition or an international exchange programme, but that’s only individuals, that’s not building a relationship between museums. So I travelled to Amritsar to visit the Partition Museum and meet the people there and will now build a partnership for the longer term, in relation to our new South Asia Gallery, which will open in 2021.”

But she says they couldn’t just take the show as it was in Amritsar to Manchester as much of it was about being in that place and being able to visit the garden and memorial.

This led to the idea of a six-month co-curation of a new version of the exhibition that would be facilitated via Skype. Ward says that both Manchester and Amritsar are two cities deeply affected by colonialism in very different ways and this was a chance to show a global perspective rarely explored.

As a sector, Ward says museums are extraordinary well placed to do this work. “Very early on I was thinking about the skills we needed to curate this exhibition and I asked someone who had never curated a major show before but who is an educator and extremely good at collaborations and public engagement.”

She chose Catherine Lumb, who has spent her career working on programmes with secondary school children to understand some of the ethics and issues around museum collections.

Lumb was introduced over Skype to Priyanka Seshadri, The Partition Museum’s Museum Associate for Curation, in late November and the two of them had regular online meetings.

“This was a real challenge but an exciting one – international partnerships can be difficult –and I was concerned about not being able to go over there before the exhibition and see everything and meet people was going to be a barrier, but it actually hasn’t been,” she says.

Lumb says that all The Partition Museum exhibition text was put into Google Drive and her and Seshadri were able to edit and make live comments and save changes. The space at Manchester Museum is smaller than its Amritsar counterpart, which means that they condensed the text from more than 5,000 words to 1,500.

“All of the content the Partition Museum had we went through week-by-week, section-by-section. Pryanka put all of the photography and images and audiovisual content for each of the sections on Google Drive. We decided which bits were vital, which we could lose and which bits we could condense and re-edit.”

Manchester Museum has also been able to use The Partition Museum’s witness accounts from the Disorders Inquiry Committee report on the massacre. Some of those accounts have been recorded in Hindi by The Partition Museum and are played in the background of the exhibition. They have also used interviews from descendant that will be played on screen, which have been subtitled into English by The Partition Museum.

“We also have versions of some of the court lines read out by actors from Dyer’s interview, where he tries to explain some of the rationale for why he decided to do what he did.

The exhibition, says Lumb, is a capsule of what is on show at The Partition Museum and they are hoping to digitally support the content so visitors will have access to the wider resources.

“I think when the international collaboration was first mentioned I found it quite intimidating but myself and Pryanka found it a lot easier than we thought it would be,” said Lumb. “Skype has been a fantastic resource and being able to have conversations, as much as the telephone is a fab invention, and being able to see each other’s faces and talk face-to-face has been far more beneficial and it something that we will utilise a lot more in the future.”

Leading up to the launch of Jallianwala Bagh 1919: Punjab under Siege exhibition on 11 April, Lumb also conducted a video conference with Seshadri’s team and her own visitor team so they would feel confident talking about the exhibition’s content.

“So, it has been a really enlightening experience seeing the possibilities of this process. Obviously there are a few things we learnt along the way with regards to being very clear about deadlines, especially given the time difference. And also that we gave each other enough time to respond to requests. I think on the whole this is going to encourage us to do more partnerships like this and I would encourage other museum colleagues to not be afraid of developing their own partnership in this way.”

Manchester Museum has supplemented its exhibition with loans from its partner museums. It has loaned a Lee-Enfield Rifle from the Fusiliers Museum in Bury, which is the same type of rifle used in the massacre, textiles from the Whitworth which highlight the cotton trade and one in a series of five Empire Marketing Board posters from Manchester Art Gallery, highlighting the tea trade.

There are also botany samples from its own collection that help explain why Britain was in India. The museum has also collaborated with the Singh Twins to create a new large-scale artwork for the exhibition depicting the massacre. Manchester musician, Aziz Ibrahim has also created a new piece of music in response to the tragedy.

A larger partnership within the UK has also been created with smaller versions of the exhibition being displayed at the Library of Birmingham and the Nehru Centre in London.

And a legacy of the exhibition will be the museum’s new relationships with its community, including work with gurdwaras in the area, which has involved recording the stories of descendants of those individuals who were present at Jallianwala Bagh, which will be shared with The Partition Museum.

“I love the way this partnership and exhibition has given us a different lens to look at our collection,” says Ward. “For me there is a lot of talk about decolonising museums and about restitution but the conversations regarding restitution are often framed in legal language around ownership, and what I’m interested in is how we can be more relational. How do we shift this to be thinking about our relationships? And for me that means our relationships with museums and with people in India.”

Jallianwala Bagh 1919: Punjab under Siege will have a closing ceremony on 2 October, a date that marks the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth and it is hoped that following this, parts of the exhibition will find a permanent home in some of the local gurdwaras.

NEMO’s 27th European Museum Conference: call for papers deadline 31 May 2019

NEMO’s 27th European Museum Conference will focus on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, specifically on how museums contribute to the sustainable development of cities and communities and how they – as strong institutions, can support peace and justice in a more imbalanced world.

NEMO wants to showcase how museums already are contributing, and can contribute, to a better and brighter future.

The deadline for submitting papers is 31 May 2019.  




Claudia Contu, Short Essay for IMD2019

To help celebrate International Museum Day, Claudia Contu, ICOM UK Student Member and a graduating MA student from the Curating Contemporary Art course at the Royal College of Art London, has written a short piece that expresses her thoughts on the future of tradition – the theme of this year’s event. To find out more on International Museums Day and the events planned see http://imd.icom.museum/  


We are definitely facing “interesting times” – as Ralph Rugoff (Director, Hayward Gallery) would put it – whilst living in the aftermath of a global crisis that compromised our understanding of the world.

To mark the occasion of ICOM’s International Museum Day 2019, which responds to the theme “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The future of tradition”, I want to introduce the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) as a case of best practice in contemporary museology and as example of a shift that has brought museums from being places devoted to the exhibition of art to institutions that encourage social change by hosting art in formats that overcome traditional exhibition-making and public programming. MIMA is part of Teesside University, and calls itself a useful museum with a civic agenda, “to reconnect art with its social function and promote art as a tool for changing the world around us”[1]. Encouraging artists and audiences to meet in its galleries and out, in the town of Middlesbrough (UK), MIMA seeks to favour the emergence of a conscious political agenda in the local community.

Photography courtesy of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

MIMA’s programme of engagement and learning offers the possibility for its visitors to meet and interact in the galleries of the museum. The gallery is conceived as an extension of the public square, where the audience can feed into the museum’s activity and core programme. For its tenth anniversary, for instance, MIMA opened its first collection gallery. The choice of artworks and their layout was decided after a series of conversations between the curators and the local community of Middlesbrough[2]. Thus, a number of acquisitions eventually addressed certain gaps in institutional representation previously felt by members of the local community – i.e. women artists, artists of minority ethnic backgrounds, and international artists addressing issues which are of interest to the Tees Valley.

Photography courtesy of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

MIMA speaks of its audiences as constituencies, allowing individuals to directly inform the museum’s agenda through the responses collected via workshops, walkatives and other activities. With a long–term perspective informed by ideas of social change and empowerment, art is seen as a tool for everybody’s action. The challenge for this institution is to go beyond the concept of ‘public engagement’, which is highly charged with managerial and marketing forces, and the proximity to the Teesside University seems to play a vital role in enabling such a fruitful dynamic. By taking over the local art school – now called the MIMA School of Art – MIMA offers a considerable contribution to the debate around the future of museums. If cultural institutions will be grounded in artistic research and develop research through art, we might be able to nurture a sustainable cultural environment that reflects the needs of local communities whilst supporting the work of cultural practitioners.

[1] http://www.visitmima.com/about/ last accessed on May 14, 2019

[2] http://www.visitmima.com/whats–on/single/middlesbrough–collection–2/ (last accessed on May 5th, 2019).

How are you celebrating International Museum Day on 18 May 2019?

With International Museums Day just around the corner – what is your museum planning for the 18th May?

Add your activity to ICOM’s new interactive map via OpenAgenda for the whole world to see. And get prepared to communicate on social media.

Look forward to celebrating it with thousands of museums in the world!

Click HERE to visit the International Museum Day website.

For IMD19, ICOM UK offered student members the opportunity to submit a short piece of writing in response to this year’s theme of Museums as Cultural Hubs: the Future of Tradition.  You can  read or download Claudia Contu’s piece below:


Andrea DeRome travelled to Argentina with an ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant

Andrea DeRome, Collections Access Officer at Ceredigion Museum travelled to Argentina with an ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant.  This is the blog that Andrea wrote during her visit.  The full report from Andrea’s visit will be published in the coming weeks in the Case Studies section of the ICOM UK website.


All Aboard

Imagine it is the 18th century; you are aboard a sailing ship out at sea. The weather is rough; the waves are high against the side of your vessel. There are the sounds of a raging gale, of water hitting wood of creaking ropes, slapping sails and heavy rain. You are at the mercy of the wind being tossed around in the middle of the ocean; you know you must have been blown off your course. But for now all you can do is hope and wait. Hope that you, the rest of the crew and your ship can survive this maelstrom and wait until the wind has died down and the clouds have cleared.

This was the beginning idea for my exhibition, ‘Because it’s there’, and an idea that would lead me to follow in the footsteps of Welsh pioneers and take my own journey to Argentina.

Because it’s there

Ceredigion is a coastal county, bordered by Cardigan Bay to the west. The museum has an excellent seafaring collection and I am curious about the tools of celestial navigation and exploration. The exhibition ‘Because it’s there’ examines human exploration: the desire to go beyond the horizon, climb the mountain, venture out across the ocean, fly among the stars, to discover something because it’s there. To tell the story of the ventures and risks brave people take to fulfil their ambitions and dreams.

On Board

Onward, as we are able through the years and decades to precisely May 28, 1865. The anchor is being raised as the sailing ship ‘Mimosa’ leaves Liverpool for Patagonia in Argentina. It took 60 days for the ship to arrive at its destination, at the mercy of the wind and waves, with four deaths, two childbirths and one wedding along the way. On board are about 153 Welsh-speaking families seeking to create a Welsh-speaking utopia. They had grown concerned that amongst the many changes of the Industrial Revolution their language and values were being eroded and lost.

When they finally land there is nothing, they have arrived on this continent in winter. It is not the fertile land they were passionately pushed; they shape their first dwelling in a cave and survive the winter through the kindness and forgiveness of the indigenous people.

Again, we can press fast forward. It is 2019. I board a plane at London Gatwick. It has taken me eight hours from Wales so far. Fourteen hours later, flying among the stars, I land in Argentina.

What do I discover?

I find the infrastructure the pioneers forged the 430 miles from Puerto Madryn to Trevelin, an enormous land of beautiful, varied terrain. They brought the railway but favoured the road. The train stations stand as a reminder, devoid of connecting tracks they are now museums housing the artefacts of the pioneers’ time. I set foot inside The First House, in the town of Gaiman, built from stone and mud in 1874. I meet spirited, proud people who respect Welsh culture and language, who consider the pioneers “to be the wheels of Patagonia, they got this area moving”, and I discover communities, chapels and schools working together to keep it all alive.

The Best in Heritage 2019

Projects of Influence
Presenting a comprehensive insight into best practices globally, this year’s The Best in Heritage will feature 42 museum, heritage and conservation projects that have been awarded in the previous year. They have been handpicked from a list of some 300 laureates of about 50 international and national award schemes, and come from five continents.
The three-day gathering will consist of two events – IMAGINES, presenting new technologies and multimedia laureates, and the core programme, where institutional and large scale projects take the stage. Each of the events will start with a Keynote address by the 2018 “Project of Influence” winner: Historic Royal Palaces from the United Kingdom, represented by their creative producer Tim Powell, and Textile Museum Tilburg from the Netherlands, represented by the museum’s director Errol van de Werdt, respectively.
The featured laureates present an inspiring variety: from art museums to archaeological and civic engagement projects, from national educational programmes to conservation and protection initiatives, from museums of the future to environmental and community museums… and then there are apps, websites, animation… the list goes on.
The participants, usually some 150 in number and coming from more than 30 countries, will have the opportunity to get up-to-date with current trends and developments, but also to engage in discussions, and meet the presenters in person at numerous social occasions.
The organiser regards all the presented laureates as being of influence, each of them having been commended by reputable professional juries. However, every year the conference culminates by proclaiming two winners of the “Project of Influence” award – those which by their excellence and impressive presentation are esteemed as innovators with a lasting impact. The votes for the award are cast by an international audience comprised of professionals, together with a group of expert moderators which, together with last year’s laureates, form the Jury.
Defined by many participants more as an experience than a conference, and as offering a “breath of fresh air”, the gathering proudly boasts its interpersonal, intimate nature, and its role as a global meeting place for colleagues who speak the same heritage language.  It is a simple, elegant, single-track event – a true celebration of professional excellence in the growing public memory sector.
The Best in Heritage is organised in partnership with Europa Nostra (with support of Creative Europe programme) and ICOM (International Council of Museums), is under patronage of The City of Dubrovnik, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, and sponsored by Meyvaert Glass Engineering and Exponatec Cologne. The local partner is Dubrovnik Museums.

Exhibitions – Going Green Survey 2018 – Ten Years On

On behalf of Sustainable Exhibitions for Museums (SEFM), you are invited to complete the on-line Exhibitions – Going Green Survey 2018 – Ten Years Onthrough the following link 

The survey is active through to 31 July 2019.

SEFM is a UK-based informal network of museum and gallery professionals who want to promote and encourage sustainability in all we do in this field, with a particular focus on the production and staging of exhibitions. 

We are looking for survey responses from museums or galleries of any kind – multiple sites may want to submit by each major site. We wish to once again review our industry to assess how environmentally sustainable or ‘green’ our work practices and institutions are, and how our approaches to exhibitions have changed in the last ten years. 
To see the results summary of the first survey issued in 2008 follow the following link to the report pdf: 
In order to prepare and gather your information to complete this ten years on survey you can preview the survey first in its entirety by downloading the pdf at this link – and then start the survey when you are ready 

This 2018 Survey is based on the original 2008 Survey so we can analyse ‘like for like’. We recognize though we may have advanced quite some way since then and that the questions/topics may have been overtaken by progress. 

Most questions  are ‘green’ and a few new ones ‘financial’ as we are taking this opportunity to see how tight budgets have affected exhibition programming and museum operations – perhaps with green benefits.