On 16 November 2021, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) will celebrate its 75 Year Anniversary. This historic milestone comes at a time of both great challenges and opportunities for our organisation. During the past year, despite the difficulties brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, our international network found a spirit of innovation and creativity that made ICOM as active as ever. The 75 Anniversary will be a unique occasion to look back at the history of our organisation and move forward together towards our shared future.
The heart of ICOM: Peace through cultural exchange
ICOM was founded in 1946, at a time in which calls for pacifism and unity birthed many international organisations with the aim of building a lasting peace in the aftermath of World War II. The conflict was over; but reconciliation was still a long way ahead. Chauncey J. Hamlin, then Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo Museum of Science (United States), envisioned an organisation of museums dedicated to fostering international cooperation. ICOM was born on November 16, 1946 at a meeting held at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
“In 1945, when I met Georges Salles, who was then Director of French museums, I suggested to him that we set up an International Council of Museums. He was immediately enthusiastic and agreed to sign a circular inviting the world’s most eminent museologists to an international meeting at the Louvre in November 1946. His backing helped me to secure the support of the Director of the British Museum in London.” – Chauncey J. Hamlin recalling the creation of ICOM.
From the outset, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) offered to host ICOM on the premises of its Paris headquarters in Avenue Kléber and made it one of the first NGOs with which it established formal links. A year later, on November 8 1947, ICOM celebrated its first General Assembly in Mexico City. Like J. Hamlin, the first few members of our organisation were convinced that, if the culture of every nation was more widely known, there would be a broader ground for mutual understanding.
“1. We believe that it is of the greatest importance for every nation that the knowledge of the cultures of the various countries forming part of one world should be made more widely known; 2. By these means there will be a broader ground of mutual understanding, for through exchange of cultural knowledge there is a common ground for peace;” – Resolution No. 4 ICOM 1st General Assembly, Mexico City, November 8, 1947.
Keep an eye on the ICOM UK website and social media channels for more news and events celebrating the 75th anniversary of ICOM.