ICOM consists of more than 30 international committees. Members from all over the world are represented in these working groups. They share and develop knowledge relating to a broad range of museum expertise, for example, museum architecture, historic house museums, memorial museums and ethnology. Luc Eekhout, director of Heeswijk Castle, has already started engaging in international sessions. We talked to him about his experience with ICOM’s international committees.
Working on a broader perspective
Luc was part of the committee that was to formulate the museum definition (2020), was treasurer and chairman of ICOM Netherlands (2015-2020), and is a candidate for treasurer of ICOM International. Luc believes that the greatest added value of international cooperation is how open-minded it makes you – which is particularly useful when assessing situations ‘at home’. “Participating in ICOM committees has broadened my perspective,” he says. "You realise, for example, that the current theme of decolonisation of museums in many countries is part of a broader and deeply felt emancipation movement of first nations."
"Why am I thinking of joining the Executive Board? I find it particularly interesting to build up and maintain a broadly accessible international network through ICOM. It has already brought me many benefits. For example, I wanted to know more about how museums deal with a recent war. During a trip to Vietnam, I was able to brainstorm together with the directors of the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, because I was there as an ICOM colleague. This was a good reason to work with ICOM Netherlands on the www.ICOMfamily.com network, which allows museum professionals to find and directly contact foreign colleagues.
Cultivating intercultural sensitivity
"My experience is also that as an international body, ICOM still has a lot to gain, not only organisationally but also in terms of communication. If you work together with so many different cultures, it is important to develop a certain sensitivity. In the past, things have sometimes gone wrong in this area. On example is the now-infamous session on the new museum definition during the General Conference in Kyoto (2019). Representatives of various ICOM countries were diametrically opposed to each other, which eventually led to the session being suspended and the decision on the museum definition being postponed. This impasse did have the result that the issue of the contemporary identity of museums is now receiving worldwide attention. I find it worthwhile that cultural awareness is growing and that, as a consequence, cooperation can be more sensitive and more effective. I also think it is very laudable of COM Nederland to offer training courses on intercultural cooperation. Then you can recognise obstacles to intercultural cooperation before you stumble over them."