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Tonya Nelson becomes new Chair of ICOM UK at July AGM

It is an honour for me to serve as Chair of ICOM UK. I am currently Head of Museums and Collections at University College London (UCL), where I have led a range of international projects:  I have worked in partnership with the British Council to develop and deliver two international fellowship programmes for MENA and Balkan region museum professionals and was Co-Director of the British Council/UCL Museum Training School which drew museum professionals from around the world to London for 6 weeks of talks, workshops and networking. I also supported the development of UCL’s campus in Qatar which offers degree programmes in museum studies, archaeology, conservation and information studies. As an American who has been working internationally for over 10 years, I am pleased to be part of an organisation like ICOM because it builds bridges across the global museums community.

I come into the Chair role at an exciting and important time: ICOM UK is now a partner in a project called ‘Safeguarding Archaeological Assets of Turkey’ (SARAT), which aims to raise awareness and build capacity for safeguarding cultural heritage in times of environmental, economic or political emergency. ICOM UK will also continue to strive to play a bridge building role as Brexit negotiations progress. It hosted a conference on the theme this year and will seek opportunities to leverage the ICOM international membership (of which 75% is European) to ensure UK museums continue to engage with the continent.

Providing member benefit and value are at the top of the agenda. At this year’s AGM, Executive Director Dana Andrew presented the results of the membership survey carried out earlier this year.  It was interesting to see that the top two reasons people join ICOM UK are free entry to museums worldwide (economic value) and demonstrating support for the international museums community (social value). To that end, we continue to make enhancements to the membership renewals process (as is ICOM General Secretariat in Paris) and find new ways for UK museums professional to engage with, and aid, the wider community through projects, travel bursaries and networking opportunities.

I attended this year’s ICOM Annual Meeting (the so called “June Meetings”) in Paris and was inspired by President Suay Aksoy’s opening statement: "The institution that unites us, the museum, has transformed over the decades and centuries, shifting from an aesthetic and educational role towards a more explicitly social role, responding to the present and urgent need to enhance mutual understanding, both within communities and across boundaries.” Chris Whitehead, Professor of Museology at Newcastle University, was the keynote speaker, and highlighted the “importance of bringing the plurality of heritage into view”.  At a time when there seems to be so much division, I think ICOM is setting the right tone and I look forward to working with ICOM UK to achieve these goals.

ICOM UK